Oregon’s hazelnut harvest has ended. As growers repair machinery, tidy the orchard floor and recover from the hectic season, Oregon’s prized nuts begin their journey from orchard to consumer.
First, nuts are cleaned, weighed, sampled and dried. Then, they are either left in their shells, or are shelled and sorted by kernel size and put into vacuum-sealed bags for snacking. Shelled nuts are also used to make products like hazelnut butter and hazelnut flour.
Where do all of these hazelnuts go? The majority of Oregon’s nuts are exported to places like China where consumers prefer in-shell hazelnuts. The rest are consumed in the U.S. in many different forms. The Pacific Northwest’s best restaurants and bakeries feature Oregon hazelnuts on their menus year round.
October’s hazelnut harvest was a race to gather all of the hazelnuts off the orchard floor before the fall rains came and luckily, we were on-hand to capture the process of harvest at Christensen Farms where Zach and his family tend to more than 600 acres of hazelnuts.
Hungry for more? Celebrate the heritage of Oregon hazelnuts at the Mt. Angel Hazelnut Festival on Dec. 6-7. This event is perfect for the whole family, featuring local arts and crafts, Oregon wine and brews and of course, nutty snacks!
It’s an age-old question among Oregonians: are they called hazelnuts or filberts?
According to European folklore, early filbert crops would ripen around August 22th, the feast day of French monk St. Philibert. As French colonists settled in Oregon in the 17th century, they planted hazelnuts and began naming the nut in honor of St. Philibert.
Whatever name you call them, we’re lucky that they grow abundantly here in Oregon and that harvest is just around the corner!
Hungry for more? Check out this Oregonian article on the nutty debate.
For many of Oregon’s staple crops, summer is a time of abundance. Juicy strawberries are harvested in June, followed by blueberries, raspberries, peaches, tomatoes, and more. For hazelnuts, harvest won’t begin until early autumn. Despite this, summer is a vibrant season in the orchards, as growers stay busy tending to their growing and maturing crop.
By now, clusters of nuts are filling out the branches. They start out green and sheltered in a protective husk, but as the weather warms up, the nuts take on the shade of their namesake: hazel. As the leaves crowd the branches, orchards develop a dense overhead canopy that provides shaded shelter for hazelnuts to ripen and to keep weeds at bay.
Hazelnut growers work diligently to protect their trees from pests, with the help of nature’s tree guardians like red-tailed hawks and owls that instinctively patrol the orchards. As summer begins to fade, growers are busy grooming the orchards and clearing any branches and debris that may have fallen throughout the summer to make room for ripe hazelnuts, which will begin falling in September. Aside from orchard maintenance in the summer, growers are taking care of all other farm activities to prepare for the busiest time of year in a hazelnut orchard – fall harvest!
Meet Brenda Frketich of Kirsch Family Farms, third generation farmer and fourth generation Oregonian. Brenda and her family have been growing hazelnuts on their Willamette Valley farm since 1990. Hazelnuts make up 75 acres of their 1,000 acre farm where they also grow grass seed, wheat, tall fescue, crimson clover and peas. Due to increased demand for hazelnuts overseas, Brenda and her family recently planted 25 additional hazelnut orchard acres which will begin producing nuts in 4 years.
Spring on the farm has arrived! As tender, green buds bloom on the branches, the window of opportunity to assess and trim trees is limited. Brenda and her crew have just about finished pruning for the season and are moving on to another crucial task: tidying up the orchard floor.
“Although harvest is still months away, the process of cleaning our orchard floors starts now,” says Brenda. “It’s important for us to keep our orchard floors clean because when we harvest, we pick the nuts up right off the ground.” Weeds, grass, fallen branches and debris are removed and the orchard floor is flailed – or mowed – so only hazelnuts are collected from the orchard floor come harvest time.
Another springtime task is fertilizing the orchard which will give trees the nutrients they need to thrive throughout the year. The rest is up to Mother Nature. “So far, this sun-rain-mix weather has been great for our hazelnut trees and other crops,” she explains. “The blooms are expanding, making way for a great hazelnut crop this fall.”
Brenda is a busy lady. She and her husband Matt have recently begun managing her family’s farm – everything from day-to-day operations to long-term farm planning. Her mom and dad remain farm mentors, but now have more time to fish, travel and be grandparents.
What else is growing? Brenda and Matt are soon-to-be parents of a their first child and expect this summer to be a busy one!
Be sure to check out Brenda’s blog, Nuttygrass, for farming photos and updates.
With over 37,000 family farms and ranches in Oregon, we’re honored to produce one of our state’s prized products! To celebrate the bounty of Oregon agriculture during National Agriculture Week, local hazelnut grower Judy Olsen teamed up with Celebrate Oregon Agriculture and KATU News to create a video with tips and information about how to enjoy Oregon’s official state nut. Watch it here!
For more videos featuring local farmers and ranchers, click here.