by Justin Holt
Here at the Asheville Nuttery, we’ve been continuing to work on cracking the nut of native tree staple crops and are now offering products through our online store for shipping or local pickup! We work with every species of nut that is available to us here— all the hickories, oaks, black walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts. But, the 2020 harvest season yielded lots of black walnuts and very little else.
This variability in yield year-to-year is actually thought to be part of the mast cycle, a strategy developed by the trees to outwit seed-eating animals that would otherwise swell in population and eat all the nuts. Mast cycle is clearly a major challenge to marketing native nut crops to customers who want a consistently available product. To address this challenge, we are working on a combination of cooperation and trading nuts with other nut processors in different regions, building a robust network of foragers with an ever-broadening range of trees to gather from and, in the long-term, having many more plantings of improved native nut varieties to supply the Nuttery.
In the meantime, we’re working on honing our black walnut processing and looking to squeeze as much value as possible from the nuts. Our next endeavor is to buy or build a hammer mill to crush the shells into a value-added product that’s useful for everything from sand-blasting to kitty litter, as well as finding a market for the hulls, which are a well-known source of natural dye and herbal medicine.