Harvest musings

HGA newsletter 2005

A year’s worth of effort comes to an exciting but busy end as harvest is upon us. Like most things good, preparation is the key, as you never really know how it’s going to turn out until the very end.

Hazelnuts may start to fall in late February – early March with the majority fallen by the end of March. The colder nights, shorter days and warm midday temperatures in late summer cause the outer husks to swell (hot days) and then contract (cool nights) which eventually cause the nuts to drop. The leaves will also start to turn but should fall after the nuts. A bit of planning is often needed in order to get the nuts up off the ground before the leaves drop. Should the leaves begin dropping during the harvest, a leaf blower is a very useful tool.

Hazels can be harvested in a number of ways. The most common is probably by hand using rakes. But sweepers and suction equipment can improve the efficiency of the harvest. Mechanised harvesters often depend on the area under the trees to be clear of weeds, suckers and relatively firm. There are several types of harvesters being used within New Zealand.

Nuts drop naturally during a six-week period. There can be a difference of several weeks between different cultivars. After the nuts have been picked up they should be rinsed with water to remove stones, grit, and dust before drying. Hazels may have a moisture content of 12 – 15% at harvest. For successful storage the moisture level needs to be reduced reasonably quickly to 8%. To get the moisture content down quickly, a period of careful drying on ventilated or open-air racks will produce good results. Storage in 20-kilogram onion sacks in a dry area with some air movement will finish a successful harvest.

No harvest is ever easy but there is always a sense of satisfaction once it is over!!