Crazy about nuts

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sat, Sep 22, 2012 - 5:04pm

Let's go a little nuts here.

When you're planning your food resilliency and garden, you need to think about producing fats and oils, and protien. Beans may provide protien, but they are annuals (need planted every year). Nut trees, on the other hand, produce with very little effort for a long, long time.

What kind of nut is right for your growing space and climate?  You may live in the American South, like me, and opt for pecans, or live where walnuts reign. Chestnuts may appeal to you, or almonds or hickory nuts. Be aware that most tree nut saplings take around 7 years to start producing, but if you have the space they are well worth it. There is even an apricot that has been bred for an edible almond substitute nut inside its pit. If you have limited space, that's a two-fer.

You may have less room and choose the American Hazelnut.

Also known as filberts, these are those round nuts in a can of mixed nuts. Hazelnuts grow in USDA Zones 4-9 and only take 2-3 years to start producing. They grow 10-ft tall and 10-ft wide. I love the fact that when the nuts are ripe they fall, and you just rake them off the ground. We planted four as a screening hedge between our front and back yard.

Last but not least, lets talk about non-tree nuts: peanuts and sunflower seeds. For peanuts you want to be in at least USDA Zone 5b or higher as they need a very long growing season, 120-150 days (although I suppose you could start them indoors.) And you don't need to buy seeds from a catalog: just use raw, unroasted peanuts. We planted ours as a flower border along the front fence. I'm harvesting them now, and they have to be one of the lowest maintenence crops I have ever grown.

A mammoth sunflower seed head, with pounds of nuts.

When you buy sunflower seeds to grow nuts, make sure they are "confectioner" sunflower seeds. Those are the big ones. I'm trying these next year in the front yard. No neighbor is going to complain that I am growing veggies instead of ornamentals.

Oh, and peanuts and sunflower seeds can be used to press oil. This article talks about pressing oil for biofuels, but the oil could also be used for cooking.


jasonw's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Piteba Oil Expeller

I have had my eye on this expeller for a while: Piteba Nut and Seed Oil Expeller Oil press.

It is on my list of resources to get for the production of various oils for cooking and fuel.  Great post safewrite and thanks for keeping us thinking about these topics.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
ooh, very nice

We plan on growing oilseed sunflowers, too. I think we are handy enough to make our own oil press, ala the instructions from the old article in Organic Gardening  that I linked to. At least, I have a brother-in-law who welds and a great uncle with a welding and cutting set up in his toolshed nearby. The tip about heating the seed you are pressing to 170 F and doubling your yeild of oil was especially helpful to me.

pinecarr's picture
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Yep, great post Safewrite!

Yep, great post Safewrite!  

I am finding mixed results (ha!) from my attempts at growing nut trees.  The 2 chestnuts I planted a year or 2 ago both died; not sure if it was my clay-like soil, or what.  But I also planted 6 hazelburts I got this spring.  5 are doing great; 1 was doing as well as the rest, then next thing I knew it was dead.  Not sure why; maybe I didn't water enough in the drought-like conditions earlier this summer.  I am planning on getting 6 or 7 more this fall to complete a hedge along one part of my yard.  The way I figure, why not?  Like you said, they start producing relatively quickly.  Plus they are supposed to be colorful in the fall (I'm in the northeast US).  

And I still have 3 Black Walnuts that I don't have the heart to pull after they survived a tough 1st year, and are now on year 3.  What the heck, maybe they'll break the danged squirrels' teeth!  

I had hoped to plant sunflowers this year, thinking about them both as a source of protein and potentially to make oil, but didn't get to it.  I am happy to get the link to the article about making oil from sunflower seeds though!

Thanks again,


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