Hazelnuts and truffles

You know the best presents?  They are the things that you really would like, but don’t buy yourself because they are just that bit extravagant.  Well my clever sisters got it spot on this year.  First to arrive was a pack of mushroom spawn to inoculate logs.  There are three different varieties of edible mushroom, and enough spawn to inoculate two largish logs.  What I may do is use half to innoculate a log each, and the other half to try again with newspaper ‘logs’.  I had a go a couple of years ago making huge rolled up newspaper logs fron unsold papers from the shop (we don’t get them collected so just recycle or otherwise use them locally) and incorporated spawn dowels in the layers.  Nothing happened.  I think that what went wrong was I was over concerned with the logs not drying out, so I wrapped the newspapers in black bin liners, and I think the mushrooms suffocated.  Given our rainfall, I think I will just stack them somewhere out of the sun and just water them a bit if we do get a dry spell.  In the meantime the spawn should be safe in the fridge door.

The second part of the present (it was a joint one) was a hazel tree innoculated with truffle spawn.  I could be digging up my own truffles in seven years or so!  I had looked at these a while ago, but decided against buying myself one since I had many other plants to spend my money on.  It really is a bit of a long shot anyway.  I hadn’t realised for example, that the truffle fungi likes it quite alkaline.  Thin soil over chalk is what they like.  I’ve got thin soil, but generally rather acidic.  What I’ve done therefore is select a spot, as close to south facing as I’ve got, on a slope, so well drained.  It hasn’t got a huge amount of shelter yet, but isn’t as exposed as some spots either, and as the surrounding trees grow up (other hazels and oaks) they will shelter each other.

truffle location
Truffle tree location

I dug my standard, two spade width turf turned over, hole for the tree and used all of a bag of ground dolomite limestone (probably 1kg? the label had long since gone).  I bought the linestone when I thought I might be doing more annual veg growing.  I mixed half in the soil below the top turves, and sprinkled the other half around the tree once planted, for a distance of about a metre radius.  Hopefully that will just give the truffle spawn enough of a pH change to get it started.  If the truffle fungi doesn’t make it we should at least have another hazel tree!

truffle planted
Truffle ‘tree’ with added limestone

I meant to do a separate post about hazelnuts, but it’s bit past time now.  Suffice to say that I got a fair share of the bumper harvest that happened last year.  In a few hours at the start of October I collected a carrier bag and all my pockets full.  Normally the birds and mice strip the trees, but there was enough for everyone this year.

nut hunting
Hazelnut hunting ground

I dried the nuts on top of the stove (I think that some may have got a bit scorched).  They have kept well in the shells, but I have shelled most of them with a hand cracker and have got about 8 Oz of hazelnut kernels.  A fair proportion (maybe 20% – 30%) had no kernel, or a shrivelled up one, but the rest were fine, if a little small.  Apparently getting empty nuts is quite normal for hazels.  The full ones should sink in water, so I may wash them next time to save some of the labour until I get a nut cracking machine!  Interestingly one of the trees appeared to have quite a few nuts with twin kernels.  Not really what you want however, since they end up a little small.

twin kernel
Twin kernel

Anyway, this bumper harvest has inspired me to look again at hazels as a nut crop tree.  We may not have the optimum climate for nuts, but that hasn’t stopped me planting apple trees, which also won’t crop well here most years.  What we do have is no squirrels, which are such a pest elsewhere in the UK as to present quite a challenge when getting any of the harvest.  I’ve still got a lot of other projects on the go this year, but I think over the next nine months I will try and work out where hazels for nuts might do best.  As usual they want somewhere sheltered and sunny (!), but I’ll also need to fit them into the existing tree planted areas.  Maybe interplanted in with the ash is one option (if I do lose the ash, there will be plenty of space) but there are other possibilities.

nut production line
Nut cracking production line

To help with nut tree selection and planting planning I also asked for and got for xmas, Martin Crawford’s book on nut growing.  This has got me over-excited about all the other nuts I could try.  Maybe not almonds (even I’m not that optimistic, although maybe in the tunnel…) but walnuts, or japanese walnuts may be a possibility to try, and perhaps I could find a more sheltered spot for some sweet chestnut, and there’s a few cute little nut trees related to horse chestnuts that are edible and may crop here…..

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6 thoughts on “Hazelnuts and truffles

  1. what nice sisters you have, and they are presents for the future as well as now, I’ve thought about ordering one of those mushroom logs or some dowels but so far it has not got past the thought process,
    are your crop of hazel nuts all from hazels you have planted or were there some already on your land, I bought five when I bought my first trees after moving here and they all died, I got one in a Woodland trust pack I bought 6 or 7 years ago that is growing,
    as a child in the 1950s I can remember foraging for cobnuts along the hedgerows of Kent and Surrey with mine and other families, back then foraging was part of the yearly cycle of life, Frances

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most of the nuts came from native trees along the river bank. I think some of them are perhaps hundreds of years old. One of our hazels also had nuts (4!) for the first time at the age of 8. We didn’t select our hazels for nuts – you can get improved varieties like you can for apples. I think the local seedlings do better than ones that have been brought in – they seem to get less die back over winter. Most of mine are brought in trees however. Starting to grow better now they are getting more shelter year on year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. how nice to have established local hazels, their seedlings have probably acclimatised to the area over the years, well done on your homegrown 4 nuts, trees and shrubs take time to become mature enough to produce seed, Frances

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hazelnuts AND truffles–what a feast you’ll have! We have black walnut trees all over our property, but the effort to get into the nut just isn’t worth it sometimes–let the squirrels treat themselves:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whether I’ll get a feast or not remains to be seen! I’ve given it the best chance possible here anyhow.
      I gather black walnuts can be an acquired taste, as well as somewhat poor garden neighbours for your other plants. I’m thinking japanese heartnut, or cross butternut, may be worth a try when I’m getting bored here.

      Liked by 1 person

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