In this post, we are going to take a look at ten nut species that you can grow. Whether it be for commercial purposes on a large scale, or if you are thinking of planting a few trees in your garden, here is our list of the top ten nuts that you can consider planting.
These nuts grow on deciduous trees, which means they lose their leaves in the autumn and remain bare until the following spring. The trees require well-drained, deep and fertile soils. Pecan farmers will often treat their soils with lime and plant cover crops up to a year before the trees are planted. The cover crops are ploughed into the soil beforehand to improve the organic matter content. Due to the deciduous nature of the tree, young trees should only be transplanted in the wintertime. Pecans do well in areas with very cold, short winters and long, hot summers. Low temperatures are especially important for flowering and nut development. Pecan trees are a water-thirsty crop and will often require supplemental irrigation in drier areas.
Out of all the nut species, almonds are considered to be the healthiest. Interestingly enough, almonds are a member of the rose family and grow on medium sized trees. The nuts we eat are found in the centre of the almond fruit, which are similar to the pips found inside of apricots and peaches. The trees must be planted in fertile soils with plenty of organic matter. Almond trees are adapted to areas with hot summers and mild winters. The trees have a degree of frost tolerance, but frost events during the flowering period may cause the blooms to fall, which is disastrous for fruit development. Most species are not capable of self-pollination and rely on cross-pollination by bees and other insects. Therefore, commercial growers can grow companion plants in the orchards to attract pollinators.
The cashew-nut tree is tall and evergreen. These trees are native to tropical climates and therefore do not tolerate frost. Mature trees have a well-developed and expansive root system which allows them to tolerate brief periods of drought. Unlike many other species of nuts, rain during the flowering season causes flower abortion and promotes disease proliferation. Cashew-nut trees can be self-pollinated or cross-pollinated. They produce a fruit known as the ‘cashew apple’. This conically shaped fruit is attached to the cashew seed which encases the nut at the bottom of the apple. Both the apples and the nuts are extremely nutritious, with the apple containing up to 5 times more vitamin c than oranges. (source)
These nuts belong to the cashew family. The United States and Iran are the top growers of pistachios. For optimal growth, these trees must be grown in areas with hot summers and very cold winters. Pistachio trees have a long taproot so they should be planted in deep, well-drained soils. The trees are dioecious, which means the male and female flowers are found on separate trees. Therefore, male and female flowering trees must be planted close together. Cross-pollination can occur through pollinator facilitation or even by mild winds. Experts suggest planting one male tree for every 15 female trees in commercial orhcards.
Also known as ‘filberts’, hazelnuts grow on shrub-like, bushy trees that belong to the birch family. When well-managed and cared for, the trees can reach heights of up to 12m, but are commonly pruned to 6m for commercial purposes. The trees flourish in areas with mild summers, cool winters and reliable rainfall or irrigation. The cold periods during the winter improves yields considerably. The trees flower in the springtime before the leaves start emerging. The lack of leaves, which would otherwise act as a barrier, promote wind-pollination. The male and female flowers are separate from one another but are found on the same tree. The flowering spikes are called ‘catkins’. The pendulous, cream-coloured catkins house the male flowers which release their pollen grains when mature. The female flowers are found at the tips of the branches and are a bright magenta when in bloom. Hazelnut trees are extremely sensitive to wind-damage and can be protected with windbreaks.
Unlike the other nuts on this list, peanuts do not grow on a tree. The peanut plant is a small, legumous shrub. Even though the plant it is capable of fixing its own nitrogen, the plants still require healthy soils and frequent fertilizing. Peanuts flourish in sandy soils and warm climates. The plants have adapted to surviving drought, fires and predators through their unique reproductive system called ‘pegging’. Here, the plants produce small, yellow flowers that bend towards and eventually penetrate the soil. These flowers then mature into edible peanuts whilst still underground. When the above-ground vegetation begins to die off, the entire plant is pulled from the soil so the peanuts can be harvested and dried for consumption.
The macadamia trees have similar climatic requirements to other species like avocados and bananas. They thrive in warm, humid tropical environments that are free from frost. Macadamia trees can be grown in a variety of soil types. However, the soil must be deep and well-drained, rendering clay soils unsuitable. Because macadamias are Australian-natives, they have low phosphorous requirements, a nutrient which is deficient in most Aussie soils. On the other hand, the trees require higher quantities of iron fertilization to promote leaf development and overall tree-health.
These trees are exceptionally fast growing and can reach heights of up to 30m. The trees are frost-sensitive, and they require deep, fertile soils that are well-drained. Walnuts have a similar flowering pattern to the hazelnuts, with the male flowers found in ‘catkins’ and the female flowers located at the ends of the branches. The male and female flowers are borne on the same plant and can be wind pollinated. However, sometimes the male and female flowers on one plant are not active at the same time. To solve this problem, growers can plant multiple cultivars that have overlapping flowering times of the male and female flowers. Care must be taken to not intercrop walnut plantings with other plants. This is because the trees produce a compound called ‘juglone’, which inhibits growth in species like tomatoes.
The smallest nut on this list, the pine nut is harvested from, you guessed it, pine trees. Up to 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough for harvesting and consumption, with the most popular species for nut production being Pinus koraiensis and Pinus pinea. This coniferous tree is adaptable to numerous environments and can grow in wet, clayey soils just as well as they can in sandy soils. The nuts can take up to 36 months to mature on the tree. The pinecones need to be cross-pollinated to produce fully developed seed. Cross-pollination is often facilitated by wind, so growers should consider planting a variety of cultivars in close proximity to one another.
If you find yourself inhabiting an undisturbed region of the Amazonian rain forest, then these could be the nuts for you. Brazil nut trees are the only member of the botanical genus Bertholletia. These trees can reach heights of up to 50 metres and can live for over 500 years. The flowers are exclusively pollinated by a unique species of orchid bees. Native to certain regions in the Amazon, here they are the most economically important product aside from timber. The Brazil nut is one of the few agricultural commodities that is completely hand-harvested in the rainforests. Come harvest time, thousands of harvesters arrive in the forests to collect the fruit from the forest floors. Within each fruit, there are approximately 20 seeds. The harvesters extract the seed using machetes which are then transported to processing factories.