Maturing hazelnuts at the end of August are still in their green ruffled bonnets. They give us a lot of pleasure at that time of year just to marvel at, and later provide tasty and healthy food. The brown hazelnuts are harvested in October when they start falling from the bonnets. The bonnets turn brown and papery and then we see the nuts start to drop from the trees. Hazelnuts store well for Christmas and the year beyond.
Our hazelnut orchard is planted in the edge or transition zone between the terraced vineyard and the tall Douglas Fir forest below. This is modeled on a Permaculture design principle called the “Edge Effect”. Using this design principle we increase diversity and productivity in our farm systems and emulate what is found in nature. The Edge Effect is where two biological communities (e.g. forest and grassland) interface. In our case we are making productive use of a boundary between a forest and a vineyard.
Our hazelnuts were planted over ten years ago and the types of hazelnut trees we selected were chosen for their resistance to Eastern Filbert Blight. Although this blight has not been seen on our island yet, it has traveled to the northwest and is currently devastating orchards in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Using the precautionary principle in 2006 we planted two compatible varieties Delta and Gamma, from the Oregon State University breeding program, that were then known as “pollinators”. We did this instead of going for the larger commercial varieties or combination. Our trees still give us abundant crops for what we want, just a bit smaller size of nut. Maybe sometimes less is more in nature. Using the Oregon pollinators as our sole plantings on the farm we have been really happy with the total lack of any disease. We are able to grow these without any spraying of fungicides, or sulphur, or copper. This is extra important as the hazelnut orchard also sits above the farm’s largest freshwater pond.