Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts is devoted to the idea that hazelnuts can be used for anything that soybeans are used for, and more, whilst avoiding the detrimental affects of conventional, industrial agriculture. It looks at the current state of the hazelnut industry, the genetic potential of using hybrid hazels, and the advantages to growing a tree crop compared to an arable one. Detailed descriptions of planning, planting, management, harvesting, processing, marketing and the potential additional products from the crop are described.
The book claims that hazelnuts have the potential to replace or supplement grains as a staple food, and one which could be grown profitably. Clearly this is not the first time this has been claimed, what is perhaps different are the hard facts provided from the experience of the authors. This will be welcome news to permaculture practitioners looking for patterns that they can use themselves and for examples of perennial systems that work, and could generate an income.
What is great is the practical detail for planting, establishing and feeding the trees, and harvesting and processing the nuts. Site requirements, types of seedling material, layout, planting plans, and the relative costs of different planting approaches are all included. What may surprise readers is the emphasis on the need to fertilise plantings and the growing crop. The options and reasons why are included.
I found the section on how to tell when the nuts are ready to harvest really useful, along with good explanations of how to hand pick. The detail included could only be provided by people with a lot of practical experience. For those hoping to grow at a larger scale the details of machines suitable for harvesting, and the pictures of machines used to husk, clean and size the nuts will be particularly welcome. This mechanisation will be needed if hazels are ever to become a commercial crop on the scale needed to make a significant contribution to meeting our food needs.
The focus of the book is the use of hybrid hazels. This includes two species not found in the UK, and which are not readily available. Explanations of why they have used these neohybrids, and how this has been done are included. For readers outside of North America there may be other species available such as Turkish hazels and hybrids of Turkish and European hazels.
Perhaps the best recommendation that I could give is that as a result of reading it, I would be trying this if I were starting out on a new site. Even with little available space left to use I will be experimenting with some of the techniques described. Hopefully some of you will too.
Deano Martin is a permaculturist and smallholder. His smallholding is a LAND demonstration site and he blogs at http://sustainablesmallholding.org/
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