Category Archives: Heartnuts

YOU PICK AT RED FERN FARM FOR 2017

You-Pick at Red Fern Farm is by reservation only. You can call a day ahead to see if there is an opening or schedule your harvest day weeks in advance. We have lots of openings on weekdays, but weekend fill up quickly.

What to Expect: You can usually drive up and park close to the spot you will be harvesting. We have clean latrines, hand washing stations and picnic tables at each parking area. This is a safe area for children, but no dogs or cats are allowed (food security issues).

The grass will be mowed, but not as fine as a lawn. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, prickly chestnut burs are scattered on the ground. Our orchards are in a rural setting, close to “wild” timber. Bring bug repellant.

Aronia Berries: (still available as of 9/29/18) Aronia berries are available free for you-pick. They will hit the peak of ripeness during early September. We have over 2 acres to choose from, with some shade from young chestnut and heartnut trees. Call for more information.

Hazels: (Finished for 2018) Hazels are available at $1.00/pound for un-husked clusters for you-pick. The season for hazels starts in late August and continues to mid-September. Hazels can be picked from the bushes or from the ground underneath. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into. It can take 30 minutes for one adult to pick clean one 10 foot tall bush and gather about 1-3 gallons of hazel clusters.

Pawpaws: Our pawpaw season is now past it’s peak.  There are still pawpaws available on the trees as of 9/29/17, but the season will be winding down soon. Pawpaws are $3.00/pound when you pick them, $5.00/pound when we pick them. Bring buckets, boxes or crates. Ripe pawpaws are very soft and should not be stacked no more than 2 deep. Weekends are very popular, so call early to reserve a time slot. Tuesday – Thursday is an excellent time to have the pawpaw patch to yourself. It only takes about 15 minutes to get 5 – 10 pounds of pawpaws. Late afternoon is the best time to pick, but ripe pawpaws will be available all day. Recipes are available. There is no minimum or maximum for the amount of pawpaws you pick. We do ask you only pick what you plan to take home.
We have many grafted trees. If you want to see what grafted variety you like the flavor of best, bring a black sharpie with you. You can write on the outside of the pawpaw what the variety it is. When you eat it later, you can compare it with other varieties

American Persimmon: Persimmons are available are still going strong as of 9/29/17 at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick them. The season starts in early September and continues to mid-October. Persimmons are very soft when ripe. They should not be piled deeply in your gathering container. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into.
They can be gathered from the ground or picked from the tree. Slightly under ripe persimmons are very astringent. They will ripen at room temperature if picked early. We have nets spread under grafted persimmons in front of our house. You are welcomed to gather from the nets, the trees or anywhere in our groves.

Heartnuts: Heartnuts are available at $2.00/pound for un-husked clusters or $4/pound without husks (they husk very easily) for you-pick. The season for heartnuts starts in early September and continues to mid-October. The nuts are gathered from the ground under the trees.

Cornelian Cherries: (Finished for 2018) Cornelian Cherries are available at $1.00/pound for you-pick. The season has been mid-August to mid-September. We recommend bringing a gathering cloth to spread under the bushes. The ripe berries are soft and sweet. Under ripe they are firmer and very tart. They will continue to ripen after picking. We have none available already picked (the family eats them up too fast).

Spicebush: Spicebush berries are available for $8.00/pound  or 50¢/ounce for you-pick.  The season runs from early September to mid October.  (Tom reported ripe, red berries on 9/7/17.) You only need a few ounces of these potent berries to add to a variety of recipes. Kathy uses them in pawpaw jam and persimmon margaritas.

Chestnuts: We offer you-pick under our chestnut trees. The season often runs mid-September to mid-October. As of 9/29/17 the 2017 season is starting to wind down, and we have discounted our you-pick prices as a result. We provide tools and buckets for harvest and designate an area all your own to pick for a day. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, prickly chestnut burs are scattered on the ground. The best time of day to gather chestnuts is mid to late afternoon. Plan on coming after lunch and harvest up till sunset.
We have a very long waiting list of people who want to gather chestnuts on weekends. If you are new to our You-Pick, your name goes to the bottom of the list. If you can only come on a weekend, it may be years before you get a chance to gather chestnuts. If you can come on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday you have a much better chance of getting to gather chestnuts. We have started scheduling people to come pick chestnuts for 2017. Call or email us to get on our list. We can schedule you now for weekdays or call you when  other dates open up.

2017 Chestnut You-Pick Prices:
If you want to keep all the nuts you pay $2.50   $2.25/pound for everything you picked up.

We discount that price by 25 cents if you come on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. On these days the price is $2.25  $2,00/pound. (on 9/29/17 we discounted our prices by 25¢ )

If you don’t want all the nuts, we will pay you 50¢ for each pound of chestnuts you gather and don’t take home.
Be sure to bring water and snacks. It takes about one hour for one adult to gather 25 pounds of nuts.
Maps and directions are available or call if you need help finding us.
We are outside a lot this time of year. Be ready to leave a message.

Heartnuts

Heartnut (Juglans ailantifolia var. cordiformis) is a type of walnut with a heart-shaped nut. All heartnuts are of the Japanese walnut species, or hybrids there of. The heartnut is a genetic “sport” or  mutation of the normal, wild type nut of Japanese walnut.

cracked shell and nutmeat of heartnut
Cracked heartnuts showing shell and meats.

Normal Japanese walnuts are cylindrical, elongated, rough or spiny, very thick-shelled and difficult to crack. In contrast, the heartnut is (more or less) Valentine-heart shaped and somewhat flattened. The heartnut is the easiest of all walnuts to husk and to crack. When moderate pressure is applied across the “shoulders” of the heart, the nut “pops” in two along the suture line, yielding two valentine-heart shaped halves. In cultivars with only “fair” to “good” cracking quality, the kernel breaks in half and comes out in two pieces. In the best cultivars, the kernel falls free from the shell in a single, unbroken piece – the only walnut in the world with this ability. On top of that, the heartnut is also the sweetest and mildest tasting of all the walnuts, beating out the so-called “English” walnut in taste tests every time. As if that weren’t enough, the heartnut has an incredible ability to store at room temperature.

 

Tom Wahl and Young heartnut
Tom Wahl standing by a 3 year old heartnut in Northern Arkansas.

The flavor actually develops in storage and peaks between five and eight years. Beyond 10 years at room temperature, heartnuts may become slightly stale, but not enough to keep them from being enjoyable.
The heartnut tree itself is incredibly fast growing. With adequate moisture and protection from weed competition they can put on six to eight feet of height growth per year in Iowa. The twigs are often as big around as broom handles. Leaves are compound and can be two to three feet long, with a very “tropical” look. Though the trees can become quite large, they tend to be low and spreading, like a live-oak. An old tree with a three foot diameter trunk and a 100 foot spread may be only 20 feet to 30 feet tall.
Heartnuts prefer moist, fertile, well-drained soil, though they will tolerate somewhat poorly drained soil better than most fruit and nut trees. They are best adapted to zones 5 and 6, with some of the hybrids suited through zone 4.
Superior heartnut cultivars can be grafted onto black walnut rootstock. The resulting tree can be twice as productive as seedling heartnuts or heartnuts grafted onto other heartnut rootstocks. Heartnuts are among the most challenging trees to graft, requiring great skill for success. For this reason, grafted heartnuts are very difficult to find in the nursery trade. More common are heartnut seedlings. The problem with seedlings is that they may grow into trees that bear nuts with no resemblance to those of their parents. Many heartnut seedlings “revert back to wild-type” – that is, their nuts will resemble the thick-shelled hard –to-crack wild Japanese walnuts. Some heartnut parent trees produce as much as 70% of offspring that grow into wild-type trees. On the other hand, the best heartnut parents will produce up to 90% heartnut offspring,

variations of heartnut shapes
Examples of various heartnuts from heartnut seedlings.

especially if they are pollenized by other good heartnut parents. If you are planting heartnut seedlings, you should plant about twice as many as the number of trees you want to end up with – that way, you can grow them up to bearing size, select the ones with the best nuts, and cull the poor ones.
Heartnuts are highly susceptible to walnut bunch disease. The disease is caused by a phytoplasma organism, and it’s transferred from tree to tree by leaf-hoppers. The disease causes “witches broom” type growth on the tree, and is frequently fatal. The good news is that the disease is apparently strongly linked to zinc deficiency in the soil. A foliar feed of the naturally occurring mineral zinc sulfate, applied in the spring, will usually clear up the disease in a single growing season. Zinc sulfate is applied to the soil around the drip line of the tree to prevent the disease from coming back.
Heartnuts have some great potential as a commercial tree. The unique shape of the nut alone makes them very attractive to consumers who eagerly pay $6 to $7 per pound for them. Add to this their rapid growth, heavy bearing, ease of husking and cracking, and great taste, and you have a tree that is well worth growing as a backyard tree or for a serious commercial venture. – Tom Wahl