index Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

QUESTION: I have tried to grow trees from the nuts and nothing comes up. How do you sprout nut seeds?

ANSWER: Most temperate tree nuts including walnuts, butternuts, heartnuts, hazelnuts, hickory, pecan, chestnuts, etc., need to be stratified before they will germinate. Collect fresh nuts in the fall and fall plant them as squirrels do, one or two inches deep. If squirrels are plentiful in your area, you can duplicate nature's way, by mixing the nuts with a wet medium like peat moss and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to give them the cold, moist conditioning needed to set up the embryo to sprout. Chestnuts should be stored in almost dry peat or spagnum moss. Plant them in the spring as weather conditions permit. Cover the planting site with chicken wire to keep the squirrels from digging up the nuts. Where squirrel and other nut pest pressure is high, form the chicken wire into a tent over the nuts and bury the sides and ends 20 cm into the ground.
You can plant the nuts in a tall pot and sprout the nuts indoors. A 2 litre (quart) milk carton opened to utilize the full height with drainage holes poked in the bottom can be used as a planting pot. A well drained soil mixture is best to get them started. Plant the stratified seed with the top end facing the centre, just under the surface. Place in a room temperature room to sprout.

Q: What do I do about squirrels?

A: There are a number of birds and small animals that can be a problem in a nut planting. Squirrels are the biggest problem of the nut grower. They are most serious in Persian walnut, heartnut and hazelnut plantings. They will start to cut the nuts down mid summer, long before the nuts are ripe. Live trapping and removal can be a solution, but this can be expensive in time and effort. A Jack Russell terrier stationed in the planting can keep them under control, or a powerful pellet gun can be used. Also encourage hunters to hunt squirrels during regular hunting seasons. The best solution is to place your orchard in an area that is isolated from wooded areas and parks that can house a population of squirrels.

Q: I have a black walnut in my yard. What can I do with the nuts?

A: Black walnut meats are not only high in food value, but delicious. They are well worth the trouble to get at the meats. They are excellent in cookies, fudge and other places where nut meats are used. They can be mixed with other nut meats or used alone.
Gather the nuts when they fall from the tree. You can remove the green hulls by tramping on them. Small hullers can be built or purchased to do this job if you plan to do a lot each year. Use heavy rubber gloves to pick up the hulled nuts and wash or rinse the nuts vigorously in a pail to remove any remaining pulp. For large amounts, a cement mixer is useful for cleaning the nuts. Spread the nuts out in an airy place to dry or if space is a problem, place them several layers deep in trays, bins or boxes and flip them in the container twice a day for a week or more. They will dry thoroughly in 1-2 months, but this can occur faster indoors. Once dry they will keep fresh tasting at least until the warm weather of summer. For longer storage the nuts can be kept frozen.
Though black walnut crackers can be purchased, the cheapest way to crack the nuts is with a hammer and vice or anvil. Rap the nut with the hammer several times to crack it. A wire cutter can be used to break out bound pieces along with a nut pick.
Butternuts can be treated in a similar manner, but the hulls are more difficult to remove without a huller. Most growers leave the hulls on and let them dry. When cracked, the hull which becomes papery, will break away on the first hit with a hammer, leaving a clean shell to crack. Butternuts usually crack better when stood on end.

Q: I have a chestnut tree in my yard. Are the nuts edible?

A: Many people confuse the common horse chestnut with the sweet chestnut. The horse chestnut is not edible. Horse chestnut burs (hulls) have blunt spikes, while sweet chestnut burs are very sharp and spiny. The horse chestnut nut is almost round with no flower end, while the sweet chestnut nut has a pointed end with a small shriveled flower tip. The most important difference is the taste. Horse chestnut meats taste bitter, while sweet chestnuts are mildly sweet.

Q: Are beech nuts edible?

A: Beech nuts are very tasty, but the nut is quite small and so few people collect them for eating. The nuts are triangular in shape and are found in a bur like a sweet chestnut with spines that are much smaller and softer than the spines of sweet chestnut.

If you have any questions that you would like to have answered, please contact our editor, Bruce Thurston at and he will either answer the question or forward your question to someone who can answer it.

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