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When is American Hazelnut ready to harvest?

 
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Location: Southeast Manitoba - Zone 2b, neutral clay soil
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My backwoods may be filled with undesirable foliage but it does also contain a ton of wild hazelnuts, many growing right along the main path. Being new to actually harvesting wild edibles though, I'm not sure when they're ready to be picked. I'm looking for a picture of what a "ripe" american hazelnut looks like as the internet has yielded no consistent results. They're starting to turn brown in the centre now, the fringes are still green, but every time I pick one to pry it open it's full of little black holes from insects getting in. Do they still need time on the bush to develop or should I just start picking them now?
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pollinator
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I don't have a picture to show but do know from our own orchard containing about 60 hazelnut bushes that the outer sheath turns almost entirely brown and the nut pretty much falls out with just a little encouragement. This may be an ideal time to harvest, but when it comes to competing with the wildlife, there may not be much left to harvest if you wait this long!
I have picked them a little green and set them aside to dry and it still produces a nice nut to eat but just requires a bit more work to remove the husk later and keep them from molding if they are packed too tightly together before completely dry.
Not sure about your bug problem. We don't spray ours and have never seen what you described but have had years where you crack a whole bunch open and there's not nut inside.....like maybe it was never properly pollinated.
 
Heather Kay
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Oh they don't get any treatment of any kind, these are growing wild - I'll start bringing them in though before the wildlife gets to them, thank you!
 
steward
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I get the bugs here too.  If there's a hole, it's the worm leaving the nut.  Haven't figured out a way to tell which ones are good vs bad.  Maybe floating them in water would be a way?

If you pick them early, let them dry somewhere the squirrels can't find them and be prepared for hundreds of worms to appear.  IE don't do it in your kitchen.  But the chickens love the worms.  Some day I might hang bags of drying nuts in the chicken run so the worms can directly feed the birds...
 
Heather Kay
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So, after many hours of scouring the internet and my woods, I've found:

1) Hazelnuts (usually) ripen faster than most other nuts, usually ready by mid/late summer to early fall (between mid-July to early September depending on climate and species/cultivar)
2) American hazelnuts can be picked when the involucre (outer casing) is starting to turn brown up until it has completely turned brown and peeled back, but by this point wildlife or pests will likely have gotten to them. The nuts can also be eaten raw when still green, apparently.
3) Twist or snip them off, don't yank off the branch
4) If they have holes in them, they're already been munched by worms and should not be eaten (by humans)
5) Test the rest by placing them in water - if they float, they're duds
6) Place them on a rack in a dry area to dry for a couple of weeks (or 2 to 4 days in a dehydrator)

The most useful reference material was https://ouroneacrefarm.com/2013/09/03/hazelnuts/ - lots of pictures, goes through the whole process, links to other material throughout, and an informative Q&A at the bottom.

 
Mike Jay
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That sounds like good sleuthing Heather!  Around here it seems like the hazelnuts are ready to pick about as the blackberries are midway through their season.

I didn't know about snipping or twisting them off, I wonder why that's recommended.  Snipping would take forever.  I have had ripe clusters fall off as I pulled neighboring clusters off a bush.  Maybe that's why??
 
Heather Kay
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I filled a 5 gallon bucket with them last night and had to give up on the twisting, it just took too much time. I think the twisting/snipping was a commonly recommended technique for beaked hazelnuts (which have sharp hairs on them, yanking would just embed them in your hand), or for hazelnuts growing in an orchard where you want to cause the least damage to the shrub possible, or for people who didn't like the feel of american hazelnuts. That said, I doubt even when I yanked off a cluster of nuts along with a twig and a couple leaves that I caused anywhere near as much damage as a deer or bear would have.

After picking them they got dumped in a sink of warm water, husked with the husks and any floating hazelnuts thrown in the large metal bowl for the compost (no chickens here yet), and the nuts that stayed at the bottom of the sink (shown in the white bowl) are currently drying over a lined box. Any little grubs that emerge will get collected in the box and go to a friend's chickens if they emerge in a large enough quantity.
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All the nuts I wound up with after going through maybe 1/4 of the pail. Most of these still looks suspiciously worm-y so we'll see what I end up with after they dry and the worms emerge.
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Processing setup. Excuse the mess, 14 hour shifts at work don't leave much time for housework.
 
Mike Jay
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You're on your way!  It's hard to tell from the picture, but if any of the hazelnuts have small round holes in them, they probably won't be good.  Before you dump the floaters, I'd crack a dozen open and see what they look like inside.  Maybe the same for the sinkers and the ones with holes in them.
 
Heather Kay
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Mike Jay wrote:You're on your way!  It's hard to tell from the picture, but if any of the hazelnuts have small round holes in them, they probably won't be good.  Before you dump the floaters, I'd crack a dozen open and see what they look like inside.  Maybe the same for the sinkers and the ones with holes in them.



I only managed to process about 1/4 of them last night but I'll crack open a few tonight when I finish the rest and see how they're looking - I'm going into this assuming about 5% of what I picked will be edible for humans. If I'm finding a lot of live worms I'll likely just give the infested hazelnuts to my friend's chickens as well as whatever crawls out from the drying rack.
 
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