Charles Rhora, was born in Wainfleet, Ontario and grew up on a farm here. He has always shown an interest in growing trees that were beneficial for food production, beneficial to the land and to the people.
My original establishment of my orchards consisted of approximately 40 percent grafted trees and the remaining 60 percent of seedlings. It was my opinion that was the correct ratio for testing the viability of commercial planting of trees. After several years, we had a "test winter" in which the lowest temperatures reached minus 35 degrees F.(this is without wind chill or dew point taken into consideration) and remained this way for more than 1 week. There was a very limited amount of snow for protection from the frost penetrating the earth. It was my estimate that there was between 3 - 5 feet of frost in the ground. In the spring, I noticed that all of the grafted trees had winter damage consisting of die back of 2 - 3 feet or as the season advanced to complete die back even the rootstock. My seedling orchards were only minimal die back (few inches on laterial branches) and new growth was much above normal growth. Nut production was near normal on the seedlings, and no production on the grated trees, My decision was then complete, no more grafted trees at this time. To concentrate on the seedling expansion.
The devotion toward seedlings have shown that by growing seedlings of varieties,, . some named or numbered cultivars, these will produce from seed, seedlings that are as good or even better than a grafted tree. It has shown that up to 70 to 80 percent of the seedlings will do this. This experiment now into the 5th generation in some cases, that these seedlings produce at a very early age, size and shape of the shell to have the uniformity for cracking mechanically. These seedlings show that they may be grown in more northern areas due to these being on their own roots. This extends the growing areas by up to 2 climatic zones.
Three examples of early production are the Korean pine (other edible nut pines) which has produced cones of filled nuts by 7 years of age. (It is stated by experts up to 25 years for production). Hazelnuts (filberts) 3 years production. Turkey tree hazel in 8 years. (again stated 15 years for production). These were all from seed. My catalogue is the list of the of varieties, named or numbered, which as explained above has shown that seedlings of those selected should give you the same results we have. All of the seedlings are availablle. Please note that some varieties are limited in quantity.
Note: See History (continued) for seed clarification. See What's New for further updates.
I am a member of ISHS (International Society for Horticultural Science), various nut associations, silverculture, etc.
Edible Pine Nuts for Northern Climates
My original planting of nut pines were from seed obtained from Europe, and Asia. Specifically from the Countries of Denmark, Sweden, Russia (Formerly USSR), Mongolia, Eastern Siberia, and Korea. I had picked these countries because we were looking for the hardiest of the nut pines to grow here. The seeds obtained were from areas classified as Zones 1 and 2. STARTING IN 1975, we corresponded with many individuals, experiment stations, and arboreta about obtaining seeds of a number of nut pine species. Over the next five years we obtained seeds from these sources in volumes ranging from a few ounces to 15 pounds. They were locally collected from individual trees growing in their natural terrain, mostly from the highest altitudes, which exposed them to extreme weather conditions.
Propagating nut pines
After we received the seeds we stored them very carefully at controlled temperatures and humidity. Several months before planting, we properly stratified the seeds. All edible nut pine seeds need only cold stratification, except Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) and Siberian pine (P. sibirica), which require first warm and then cold stratification. Warm stratify seeds by mixing them with damp peat moss and storing the mix in a waterproof container such as a large freezer-type bag in a dark, temperature controlled location (68°-70°F) for 3 months. This ripens embryos that may be immature. Cold stratification consists of storing the seed and damp peat moss mix at a temperature between 33°-36°F until ready to plant. We normally plant the seeds in the first week of June.
We use three-foot wide seedbeds for planting. Start seedbed preparation in the fall the year before planting by working mycorrhizal inoculant into the soil so the germinating seedlings can use it immediately. In the spring, work the seedbed up to 8 inches (12 cm) deep, then rake aside approximately 1-1/2 inches (4 cm) of soil where you will plant the seeds. Add more inoculant to this removed soil while scattering the seed quite thickly, then cover with the freshly inoculated soil and water thorougly. Damping-off is seldom a problem because of the inoculant. I do not use greenhouse for germination of seeds, as they tend to produce misleading results.
The three-foot wide seedbed accommodates a simple wooden cover to protect the seed and germinated seedlings from rodents and birds. We make a rectangular box with 1 inch (3 cm) thick unfinished pine 12 inches high and 4 feet wide by 12 feet long (30 cm x 1.3 m x 4 m). We place it over the seedbed burying it 3 inches (8 cm) deep in the soil-the 12 inch height protects seedlings for 2 years of growth. We run 2 X 2 inch spruce the length of the box, with two more crosswise for support and cover it with a 1/4 inch (5 mm) galvanized wire mesh. Simple handles enable us to remove and replace it for periodic weeding. This size lets us plant a large amount of seed each year, though anyone could make the same covering sized to their needs.
THE NEED FOR MYCORRHIZAL
Seeds planted the first week of June begin germinating in two weeks and continue for another two weeks, with a typical final germination of 85-90 percent. Partial shading for the next four weeks helps prevent the sun from burning the seedlings. After this you can remove the shading without damaging the seedlings. We weed the seedbed by hand because herbicides kill the mycorrhizal fungi. After the middle of August we allow weeds to grow to prevent frost-heaving of the very shallow-rooted seedlings.
Our first seedlings looked very healthy initially, but they did not grow. Soon some started to turn brown and a few died. The rest remained at the same height as when they germinated. We sought help from various sources but were surprised that no one in North America could advise us since few had tried to grow these two species. I then recalled some correspondence from a retired European chemist who had, as a hobby, grown some Korean pine. He had mentioned that adding a certain natural material to the soil before planting the seeds would help them. Though our seeds had already germinated, we immediately gathered this material, ground it to a fine dust and sprinkled it over the seedlings. After watering them very thoroughly we saw rapid results with the seedlings returning to their natural bluish color and putting on a rapid spurt of growth (approx. 1/8 inch) the first year. This was a start, but we knew that to bring this experiment to a successful conclusion, more work had to be done in this area.
Over the next seven years, we experimented with natural ingredients and by adding these to the original we were able to obtain growths from 10 -18 inches (25-45 cm) each year.
Upon further study, we found that all pine trees benefit from mycorrhizal fungi. Korean, Siberian, Swiss stone, Armand, and Siberian stone pine seeds will germinate, but the survival rate is very low to nil without inoculant. The inoculant basically produces hair-like fungi that attach to the feeder roots enabling the tree to absorb minerals and other essential elements from the soil. While developing our inoculants, we tried several from different regions of North America, but none worked in our area. These inoculants were adapted for these regions and worked where they were developed but failed in other regions. We have now developed inoculants that greatly help the edible nut pines grow at their maximum rate and produce cones and nuts at a much earlier age than had previously been reported. We also found that each species required different ingredients in their inoculum. Feedback based on other's observations, indicate that our inoculants work all across Canada, in the United States, and have helped trees grow faster in Europe, Asia, and other countries. We are sorry that we cannot describe the ingredients in these inoculants because we are patenting them.
From this start we now have developed inoculants that are essential, or will greatly help, all of the edible nut pines grow at maximum growth rate producing cones and nuts at a much earlier age then had previously been reported. Also we found that each species required different natural ingredients in their inoculum. The suggestion of taking some dirt from under a pine tree for the inoculant is not true - it does not work.
Up until now we hand harvest the cones using a Nut Wizard©. The cones are covered with a very sticky resin. One should wear gloves when harvesting the cones. The cones ripen in middle October to first week of November, and are easily recognized when they are ready for harvest. While maturing they are a medium green, but upon ripening they turn to a brown color. After ripening, the cones fall to the ground and it is only a matter of collecting the cones. The cones are air dried for 3 to 5 days. In this period the pitch or resin dries, but most importantly the cones open and by shaking it, the nuts fall free from the cone. Some nuts need a little coaching but they are quite readily removed. As the harvest grows in size the cones will be easily dried in a kiln.
Our entire crop to date is sold from our farm. Once the general public learned that we had fresh pine nuts, we could not keep up with the demand. Each year we have a list, the first person contacting us, is of course at the top, and has first choice. After our supplies are depleted, we notify the remaining customers, and their names are put on next year’s list. We also set aside a good portion of the nut seeds for our own use in our nursery. We receive $12.00 per pound for eating purposes, and those that are sold as nut seeds the prices are higher. The reason for the difference in prices is because nuts for seed require more care in their handling and storage. Note: Update - All of our crop now goes back into our nursery for propagating, as we are still expanding our orchards. Any extra trees are sold to our customers.
ADVANTAGE OF EDIBLE NUT PINES -CLIMATIC ZONES - HEALTH - COMMERICAL CROP
For the edible nut pines, they have many advantages over some other deciduous nut trees, in the fact that they may be grown in a more far-reaching range of climatic zones, across not only all parts of Ontario; but also Canada, United States, ranging from Zone 1 to 10.
Nut pine trees not only demand a higher price for their beneficial effects derived from eating the nut kernel, but the whole tree is in great demand for medical remedies which is good for heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other medical problems. They are producing capsules now that include ingredients made of Edible pine nuts, bark, needles, & roots. The price per bottle is very expensive. We have had many requests from customers who have purchased the trees for these reasons.
We also have a demand for the cones; in fact, the cones are in as much of a demand as the pine nuts. The resin on the cones last for up to 3 years, even although it is dry, and the aroma is one of the most pleasant fragrances. We sell all our cones to craft stores for this reason. The demand is so high, that we have a waiting list up to 3 years for back orders. Some time ago there was an article on edible nuts pines in a well known magazine distributed in North America and after the write up; we were overwhelmed by the request for nuts. We received orders or requests from large chain restaurants for up to 500 pounds of nuts in the shell every month. Unfortunately we had to decline because we could not meet these demands, nor will we be able to for several years. To date, we have not encountered at our location any pests, or diseases that have affected these trees. We carefully inspect the orchard at least once a week.
In our early stages of developing the edible nut pine as a commerical crop for Canada, we worked with the seedlings in our nursery. As a member of many organizations for nut growing, it was suggested by one member that you will never be able to promote these as a commerical crop because you do not have any named cultivars. I was also told that if you were to graft these onto the Eastern white pine as a rootstock it would eliminate the need for the innoculant. This challenged me to try an experiment to prove whether these statements were correct or not.
We started this experiment by collecting scion wood from very promising seedlings and started two experiments to run in parrall to find out which was the best method to proceed with. We obtained some root stock from the Pinus strobus and had them graft the scion wood of the selected Korean pine and also took some of my seedling rootstock of the korean pine and grafted these as well. The results were outstanding. The one's that were grafted onto the Eastern white pine took longer to produce cones than the seedlings. Also, the nuts in the cones were only 50 - 65 percent filled and number of cones on the trees were reduced. Another thing learned from this experiment was that they were stunted in growth and other abnormalties. The scion wood grafted on the Korean pine rootstock were easily adapted to and they produced cones at least 2 years before those grafted on the white pine. The most encouraging aspect was the amount of filled nuts which the cones produced which was 90 -95 percent of filled nuts and the nuts much larger than the white pine rootstocked grafts. One tree at the age of 15 years will produce up to a bushel of cones (with an average of 65 - 90 nuts per cone). To summarize my experiment - my experience shows that the only thing gained in grafted onto the Korean pine rootstock was for ornamental reasons only. I then went back to growing only seedlings. The seedlings we have selected, to the best of our knowledge are the best available for not only commercial production, but also for landscape purposes. .
We have many acres planted out to orchards of many of the varieties of edible nut pines. To maximize the return per acre on these trees, it is best to plant the trees in rows twenty feet wide with spacing of 10 feet between trees in the row. By using this spacing, we have found that they produce the most return per acre, especially during their early producing age to obtain the most nuts. After they reach the age of between 20 to 25 years, they tend to start to crowd in the row. At this time we use a tree spade and remove every other tree to a new location. We are able to double the size of our orchards, and the trees moved in this manner will only lose one year’s production. Also this gives us the final spacing of twenty feet between the trees in the row of our orchard. The trees easily re-establish themselves, as they are shallow rooted. Once the trees start producing cones and nuts, squirrels and chipmunks can be a problem. Although to date we have not had any problems with these pests, due to the fact that we have many owls, hawks, and other natural predators which keep these away from our trees. If there were a problems with squirrels, etc., we recommend a planting of another crop, (possibly hazelnuts or filberts) a good distance from the pines to attract there attention away from the pine nuts. Another option is to live trap these pests.
Listed below is a brief description of all the edible nut pines that we have experimented with. Some are in orchards; others are still in test plots. While others failed to survive our winters because of lack of hardiness (those in Zone 7a and up) the germination ranged between 80 to 95 percent. All have the potential as a commercial crop planting with the added benefit as an ornamental and for landscape settings.