Hazelnuts full of diversity

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Woofers (Workers On Organic Farms) Robert Vande-Sompel, from Belgium (left), and Simon Nafe, from Germany, sort through the hazelnuts

HAZELNUTS are popular.

Romona Wade, from Wilson’s Hazelnut Farm, in Dipton, said there could be five hazelnut farms in Southland _ one in Browns, two near Invercargill, one in Lumsden and Wilsons in Dipton.

A hazelnut may be small, but it’s also a very diverse nut.

Other than the obvious, processing the nut for consumption, everything with the nut and tree was used, Ms Wade said.

The shells were pulped and turned into briquettes which were used for heat. Branches from the trees were mulched and the wood chips were used on footpaths to reduce the mud,
with the added benefit of emitting a lovely smell, she said.

“We also have two pigs which we feed hazelnut pulp to.”

Farming the hazelnuts had been a 16-year vision, with up to 4000 hazelnut trees on 12 acres of land now mature enough to harvest.

“In 2014, they took off… the trees came into their own.”

Last year, Romona and her partner Ken Wilson sent 1 tonne of nuts north. This year, that had increased by 50% to 1 tonne, with the bulk of the nuts transformed into oil and flour.

She expected to harvest more than 2 tonnes next year.

Ramona Wade, of Wilson’s Hazelnut Farm, in Dipton, turns the hazelnuts on the drying table.

Once collected, cleaned and dried, the nuts were bagged and sent to a hazelnut factory in Christchurch. To help with the seasonal process, from the end of February to late-June,
woofers (workers on organic farms) were often utilised, she said.

This year that had included eight woofers from the United States, Germany, Belgium and France, who helped with processing and bagging the nuts, as well as maintenance around the property including fencing and pruning.

Harvesting and processing the nuts was a labour-intensive process.

Once mature, the nuts fell on the ground, which were then collected by
a machine, she said.

Ramona Wade, of Wilson’s Hazelnut Farm in Dipton, shows some of this season’s hazelnut harvest.

“The machine picks the nuts up along the side of the trees, then we vacuum the rest up between the trees.”

The collected nuts were then put on a table and all the rubbish removed, the nuts sorted, then washed, before being put on a drying table. Once they were dried, which normally took about a month, they were graded, double-checked, weighed and bagged.

Because of an abundance of hazelnuts during the past few years, Ms Wade and Mr Wilson have invited people to pop in and pick hazelnuts, for a donation which was passed on to Lumsden/Winton St John, she said.

“If you see the sign out on the main road, they will be there, for a donation.”

People were more than welcome to come and pick some hazelnuts, depending on weather or until they were all gone, she said.

For more information about the farm or hazelnuts, contact Ramona via Facebook or Trade Me on Wilson’s Hazelnut Farm.

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