SONG News January 2014 no.99
In this Issue...

Craig, Tricia, Alicia, John Sankey, Jay Garlough and Joanne Butler, Tony, Marc, and Krista, all volunteer walnut harvesters, gathering walnuts for Ottawa's Hidden Harvest program. Photo by: Katrina Siks


Sawmill Creek: On 18 May, John Adams, Jeff Blackadar, Roman Popadiouk, John Sankey & Richard Viger replaced 5 stolen posts from the shagbark hickory plantation, and then added 25 more for new nut trees along the wetland. Roman provided two Korean nut pine seedlings to start the newest plantation area, John Adams planted 40 black walnuts provided by Jim Ronson from the Perth area along the wetland ridge. A City of Ottawa grant paid for the posts and tree protectors.

Given several local successes in growing shagbarks from the Ferguson Forest Center, 10 whips were purchased from them in early October for the new area at Sawmill Creek, and 7 for planting at the Perth Wildlife Reserve. Jim Ronson planted those at Perth, Jeff, Richard & John S. those at Sawmill Creek. We also planted 3 Carpathian walnut seedlings grown by Roman from seed from northern Ukraine and a 3rd Korean nut pine seedling, all to the new area separate from the original pure shagbark area.

The Burnstown shagbark seedlings are much easier to transplant to other sites than those we've grown from Lavant seeds. Of about 80 Lavant seeds & seedlings planted on the site over a three year period, solely one survives; almost all the Burnstown seedlings planted a year ago are doing well. We've had similarly poor transplanting results of Lavant seedlings on the Dolman Ridge. This marked difference in site specificity adds another mystery to those raised by Jim Ronson in SONG News issue 97.

A European chestnut grown by Luciano Pradal from seed from northern Italy survived the -37C winter at Gordon Wilkinson's site, quite encouraging. We're growing a few more for trial at Sawmill Creek.

Ernie Kerr has tried a $40 nostalgia peanut butter maker on black walnuts. He finds that it works well and produces a delicious slightly crunchy butter, but has limitations due to the cheap construction. We're looking for a machine intermediate in cost between this unit and commercial machines ($3k and up) that might be suitable for the scale of local harvests.

Hardy Heartnut Project: Two of Gordon Wilkinson's 19 heartnut trees produced nuts this year even though a -3C frost followed an extended period of hot weather during the first two weeks of May and damaged most of the terminal buds housing the female flowers. His temperature loggers show that last winter got as low as -37C on the site, only 2C short of the all time record low. Nevertheless only one of these trees was winter killed and only one other suffered major trunk dieback. As expected, the unusually harsh weather selected for the toughest seedlings of the Hardy Heartnut Project; those that survive to whip size should be completely reliable for Ottawa.

Hidden Harvest Ottawa's Jason Garlough and Katrina Siks attracted 300 volunteers this year, including ECSONG members, who collected 600 kg of black walnuts, butternuts and ginkgo nuts from publicly accessible trees. Over a ton of tree produce collected (fruits as well as nuts) was donated to local food banks. They got special support from Governor General David Johnson to make public service videos about distributing urban tree food such as nuts that so often go to waste, and official visits from Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor Jim Watson. The Governor General's nut grove, established with ECSONG help over a decade ago, had a bountiful crop this year and contributed to the HHO harvest as well as to the kitchens of Rideau Hall. Small scale nut processing combined with the enthusiasm of Jason & Katrina offer a wonderful future for nut growing all across Ontario.

The Winter Meeting/AGM was held at the Ottawa Citizen auditorium on 18 January 2014. The RVCA's Kristy Giles & ECSONG's Jim Ronson spoke on the rapidly developing Perth Wildlife Reserve; Debra Huron & Daniel Buckles introduced us to the Champlain Bur Oaks, the remnant of an oak forest that gave the name des chênes to so many local features; Ernie Kerr showed his nut butter maker and samples of its product; Jason Garlough brought us up to date on season two of Hidden Harvest Ottawa. Nut goodies included Luciano Pradal's Castagnaccio, John Sankey's Pecan Chews, roasted chestnuts and commercial almond nougat. The existing ECSONG officers and coordinators were acclaimed; Daniel Buckles has joined us as liaison for the Champlain Oaks project.

Pecan Chews served at the 2014 ECSONG Winter Meeting
1/3 c. com syrup
2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp water
8 oz. butter
5 oz. pecan meal
1 tsp. baking soda
In heavy saucepan, put corn syrup, sugar and water, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to 310°F. Stir in chopped butter, cook to 290°F. Remove from heat, stir in pecan meal then soda, and pour onto nonstick surface. After 1/2 hour, slice into squares with pizza cutter.

The inventory of the 151180 trees owned by the city of Ottawa has been released:
2027 Ginkgo (mostly male, no nuts)
1335 white oak group
578 Turkish Hazel
111 Black Walnut
41 Butternut
16 Shagbark Hickory
3 Manchurian Walnut
So far about 25% of them have been located in a public GIS file; more are to follow in time. This inventory excludes all trees on private, provincial and federal property, such as those on the Dolman Ridge and FRP groves.

ECSONG and the bur oaks of Champlain Park: Debra Huron
About 40 people gathered at dusk on 25 September to celebrate the bur oak trees of Champlain Park neighbourhood as part of National Tree Day 2013. Since 2011, residents of Champlain Park have been working to preserve and celebrate the oaks under auspices of the Champlain Oaks Project http:// .

ECSONG's Richard Viger attended the event and provided an overview of ECSONG's work. Tina Le Moine from Hidden Harvest Ottawa was another guest; organizers invited her to talk about the urban harvesting of fruit and nut trees.

Most of these majestic bur oaks were planted not by humans, but by squirrels. Many of the trees are more than 150 years old, and represent the largest grouping of mature bur oaks in the urban area. This year, the burry acorns of the oaks are abundant. People attending the event heard about the ways aboriginal people used the bur oak acorns as famine food. Someone even circulated a recipe for making dessert bread from acorn meal.

Lavant Shagbarks
Jim Ronson

Several years ago, a geneticist from the Peterborough MNR gathered with Conservation Authorities, field naturalist groups, and the forest industry on a two hectare patch of Ontario Crown Land. We were on what seemed like a usual stretch of rugged Canadian Shield, so why on this day was there a buzz about this place on the French Line Road north of Hopetown? Why is the Society of Ontario Nut Growers interested in the 1000 Shagbark hickories even today?

Look in any field guide about Shagbark hickories. Look at the trees and environment of what we in SONG call "The Lavant (Township) Shagbarks". These 130 year old trees have out-competed the surrounding White pine, Oak and Ironwood on extremely shallow soil, on steep slopes and on cold hilltops. These would be the farthest north Shagbarks in the world were it not for a planted line of 10 trees between Renfrew and Burnstown, also 100 years old.

These trees are a subspecies that are valuable for future plantings in Eastern Ontario and Quebec. Except for one thing. We have tried our best to propagate them without much success. Thousands of nuts have been collected, mostly after squirrels have cut them down. We know that nuts must not be mulched but little else is known - yet.

So, how did these two groves get there in the first place? We have little idea. First Nations people would have planted in the fertile valleys. The Lavant shagbarks grow without any pattern.

There is a deeper mystery. There are very few people on the road called The French Line but one family has the name Roffey. The farm north of Burnstown on which the 10 trees were planted is lived on by a man named Roffey. The farm is a heritage farm of his family. He says that at one time generations ago, the Roffeys walked to Perth and Brockville with produce. That walking would include The French Line.
Jim Ronson, SONG, Perth (705-264-1937)

Super Persian Walnuts
Ernie Grimo

I have been growing and selecting the best hardy Persian walnut trees for Eastern North America for almost 50 years. What I have learned is that they are as temperamental as young fillies when it comes to environmental influences or individual characteristics.

I began by thinking that trees selected by other growers would be the best available. As time went by, I realized that most of these selections were little better than wild seedlings. They sometimes lacked hardiness., others were erratic bearing, but most were susceptible to walnut blight.

Thus began the task of selecting the best trees for major trouble free production. My first inclination was to select cultivars that were productive with high quality nuts. Most of the selected clones met this criterion. Late leafing was never an issue for me because in my climate there were only a few days between early and late leafing cultivars.

As the trees grew larger, walnut blight became an issue. Some selections like 'Hansen', 'Northern Prize' and 'Metcalfe' were so blight prone that more than half of the crop was damaged each year even with spraying copper, while others were much more resistant to the blight. Most home growers would be unable to spray for walnut blight, so my efforts concentrated on propagating the resistant trees.

I have now reached a point where I am reselecting cultivars for drought tolerance. I have a minimum of two trees of each cultivar in my orchard. Now that the trees are large and touching at 32 feet apart, there is strong competition for the available moisture, especially during summer dry spells. The water table is 20 feet down with 10 feet of heavy blue clay between the trees and the water. The clay essentially makes the water table largely unavailable to the trees. The reaction of the trees to this situation is remarkable. Black walnut, heartnut, sweet chestnut, hickory and pecan trees will survive these spells with little difficulty, as do some of the Persian walnut cultivars. Persian cultivars that do not have drought tolerance react by dropping leaves in mid-season and later dying back severely by spring.

Surprisingly, there were cultivars that had no such reaction to the drought. These are the ones that I call the "Super Persians" since they have passed all earlier criteria for selection plus hardiness, resistance to blight and drought tolerance. These super selections include 'Broadview', 'Young's Bl'(a seedling of'Broadview'), 'Combe', 'ISU 73-H-24', 'North Platte', 'Sigler', 'Sejnovo', 'Greenhaven', 'McKinster' and 'Dooly 69-E' (a black walnut x Persian hybrid).

Developments in Hazelnut Growing in Ontario, 2013

June 2013 saw the incorporation of the Ontario Hazelnut Association (OHA), primarily as a result of the efforts of Dr. John Kelly of Erie Innovations and Dr. Adam Dale of the U of G at Simcoe, and their assistants. OHA is a not-for profit organization's whose mandate is to develop the growing of hazelnuts in Southern Ontario into a thriving, profitable, sustainable industry that should, within a decade or so, occupy in the order of 20,000 acres of land. (These orchards will be located in "apple" belt primarily)

Hazelnuts are recognised in Ontario as the next great potential "alternative" crop with ever growing worldwide demand and decreasing supply predictions. The unique aspect of this crop, over most other replacement crops that have been tried, is that the product has a global market without the potential for local market product glut that has been experienced with many of the other alternate crops that growers tried in Southern Ontario. Even with 20,000 acres of trees planted, Ontario's share of the global market would only be in the order of about 2%. So there is lots of room to expand ifneeded.

Helping to stir the need for local hazelnuts is the presence of the globally dominant user of hazelnuts right in our backyard, namely Ferrero SpA in Brantford. They currently import 10,000 tonnes of shelled hazelnuts annually from Turkey. They are looking for alternative sources for their hazelnuts and hope that Ontario can rise to the challenge to produce a nut that is up to their exacting standards. (10,000 tonnes of shelled hazels is approximately what 20,000 acres would produce)

Ferrero has very specific standards for the nuts they use. They prefer a round nut about, 12mm in diameter that sheds its skin when roasted and has the "hazelnut" taste. These are tall orders to fill, made even taller by the need for a tree that is immune to Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) and will survive our distinctively "non-Mediterranean" climate.

Research plantings of a wide variety of selected hazelnut trees at the University of Guelph (U of G) at Simcoe have been undertaken to find trees that make the grade in the last few years under the direction of Dr. Adam Dale. A number of individuals have been identified as the first choice for the soon to be hazelnut orchards. The primary selections will be for trees from Oregon that produce nuts acceptable to Ferrero. The fly in the ointment though is that these trees do not have good catkin survivability, so locally grown and tested selections will also be used as pollinators.

The U of G has taken these preferred trees and developed individual protocols that will allow for rapid tissue culture replication. This will be carried out in a local laboratory after which they will be transferred to a local nursery where they will be grown out for a season and then readied for sale to the growers.

Now everything is set to begin, we just need committed growers to step up and place their orders. These growers need to be convinced that the planting of hazelnut orchards is a sound idea with good likelihood of decent profit return on their investment. Currently the OHA has about 150 individually ready to start their orchards.

The OHA in association with the U of G are developing a business plan active spread sheet that explains all the costs and where and when the profits are to be gained when growing hazelnuts. This application can be tailored to each grower's unique situation. It will be a valued tool to incorporate into a business plan.

This is where the OHA steps in to bring the potential growers into the group to provide guidance in the selection, planting, growing and marketing of hazelnuts. This information has been placed on the organization's web site (or will be soon) and is also presented in annual symposiums (this year on March 25, 2014 in Brantford). The OHA is a growers group with an elected board of directors. The focus of the OHA is initially to provide guidance to the committed growers, and then work on recommendations for the best or preferred orchard layout and tree selections. This will be foliowed closely by recommendations for the care and maintenance of the trees. Many of these recommendations are already in place in other jurisdictions and need minor tweaking for Ontario. Once the trees are in the ground and producing the OHA will work on developing or importing the optimum harvesting methods and machinery. Processing plants and collators will come into play in about 5 years after planting in order to clean, sanitize, dry and sort the nuts and finally crack and market the end product to Ferrero and other users. (These "other users" will play a valued roll in the development of this business and they will make up a significant part of our market.)

So there is a lot to do to get these nuts to the market.

The OHA is actively looking for members to join, even if you are not planning on planting trees. You may have other talents to contribute to the mix. Please check the OHA web site for further information.
Martin Hodgson
Interim Chair Ont. Hazelnut Assoc.

Black Walnut Processing in Ontario 2014

Last year Neil Thomas donated his Walnut Processing Equipment to the University of Guelph. I met Neil once at his farm North East of Kingston several years ago to see his equipment. From what I could surmise Neil was a biologist with an interest in process equipment for Black Walnuts. He planted about 2500 Walnut trees on his farm. He entered into a multi-year agreement with Algonquin College whereby he defined objectives and known technologies plus provide guidance, and funds to a senior group of Engineering Students and they produced machines to harvest, hull, clean, crack and separate Black Walnuts.

Naresh Thevathasan (Manager / Agro forestry Research and Development at the U of G asked SONG to appraise the machinery and I was nominated. Subsequently I transported the equipment from Neil's farm to the U of G and was further tasked with testing and evaluating the equipment via production runs on the 2013 crop produced by the nut crop from the U of G's 1000 trees.

I will be making a presentation at the March 4th SONG meeting in Simcoe which will include my observations and conclusions based on trial runs of this equipment. Suffice to say I now think that Neil's, mine, Ernie's and Linda's objective of having available machinery which is economical at the farm scale to start a small Black Walnut commercial operation. The cheapest way is to pool or share machinery presently available. The beauty of this is, if we organize a cooperative endeavor any SONG member can hire people to collect urban nuts and in turn be paid for the nuts either in cash or barter for extracted kernels and develop their own local market. I hope to instigate a discussion based on this and make an effort to apply for grants. I hope to see you at the upcoming meeting and receiving your input.
Glenn Bannerman, SONG Director of Black Walnut Research

SONG AGM Motions

Motion 1: Moved by Ernie Grimo that we move the SONG Annual Meeting along with the election of officers to the March meeting. This will also require a change in the constitution to address this motion. Seconded: Bruce Thurston

Motion 2: Moved that the summer meeting become an optional or special event meeting. Seconded: Bruce Thurston

Discussion: Our March meeting is our best attended meeting and our summer meeting is our poorest. Our last summer meeting had fewer than 4 voting members in attendance including myself. Each of the last 4 or more summer meeting have been poorly attended. It is not a good situation to leave the election of officers in the hands of so few people.
Respectfully submitted,
Ernie Grimo, President, SONG

Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.