Growing Nuts in PA
Posted: November 6, 2013
Nuts are tasty and healthy. They contain a lot of omega-3 and unsaturated fat, both of which are heart healthy. However, they are high in calories, so should be consumed in moderation.
There are many types of tree nuts that grow in Pennsylvania, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the state. If you’d like to grow nuts to add to your product selection, you are more likely to be successful with a little planning and careful selection of the types of nuts you plant.
Wild nuts are usually small, hard to crack out and not worth the time it takes to collect them. Serious nut growers choose named cultivars of nuts which are grafted as scions onto hardy rootstock. The Pennsylvania Nut Growers Association is one group of people who know which cultivars do best in the different climatic zones of Pennsylvania and their annual display at the Pennsylvania Farm show is an excellent place to see which cultivars grow well and where they were grown.
Shagbark hickory is the hardiest type of hickory. The tree has attractive, distinctive exfoliating bark. The nuts are almost white and they are generally easier to crack than shellbark hickory nuts. Some good cultivars include ‘Yoder #1’, ‘Grainger’, ‘Porter’, ‘Wilcox’, and ‘Abundance’.
Shellbark hickory nuts can grow on slightly wetter sites than shagbark. The shells tend to be harder than that of shagbark. Good cultivars for PA include ‘Keystone’, ‘Fayette’, ‘Henry’, and ‘Hoffeditz’.
Black walnuts are very common in PA, but the nuts produced on trees grown from seedlings are usually very difficult to crack out. Ease of cracking and how often the nut meats come out in halves are important criteria for a black walnut worth propagating. I really like ‘Elmer Myers’. It is a smaller nut when you first look at it, but the shell is very thin, the nut meats are big and plump inside, and they crack out remarkably well. Other good black walnut cultivars are ‘Vandersloot’, ‘Hare’, ‘Farrington’, Rower’, ‘Sparrow’ and ‘Thomas’.
Persian or English walnuts are usually grafted onto black walnut rootstock. They are much easier to crack than black walnuts. ‘Hansen’ is a smaller nut but the nut meats really fill the shell. ‘Coble #2” produces a very large nut and will impress your customers. Other good cultivars are ‘Alpine’, ‘Lake’ and ‘Somers’.
Chinese chestnuts are another tree nut that is grown commercially in PA. “Crane’, ‘Abundance’, ‘Meiling’, ‘Nanking’, and ‘Orrin’ can all produce well. Of all the nuts, chestnuts are most bothered by the weevils which show up as fat grubs emerging from mature nuts in the fall. If you want to grow and market chestnuts, you will need to have a chestnut weevil management plan, or pasteurize the nuts at harvest to stop the larvae from developing.
So go ahead and grow nuts in PA. They are a nutritious food source and would add variety and interest to your enterprise!