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Unit 6: Fruits and Nuts
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Growing fruits and nuts in your forest has a high potential for generating income by marketing them as ingredients in plant based diets or old-fashioned recipes, or more generally as products that can satisfy consumer yearnings for unique and delicious foods that are linked with personal health and natural resources conservation. With this possibility in mind, or simply for personal consumption and satisfaction, you may find it exceptionally rewarding to learn how to cultivate forest fruits and nuts.
The most common types of forest fruits are berries, such as blackberries, serviceberries, lignonberries, elderberries, blueberries. Wild plum, pawpaw and hardy kiwi are other forest fruits of interest. Nuts that grow in northeastern forests include shagbark hickory, shell bark hickory, and pignut hickory (for wildlife only), black walnut, chestnuts, acorns, hazelnuts, and beechnuts.
[PawPaw Fruit Photo]
PawPaw Fruit
Brian Lockhart, Louisiana State University. www.forestryimages.org
To decide if producing fruit or nut crops from your forest is a realistic option, consider two possible starting points. First, perhaps there are nut-bearing trees or fruit-bearing shrubs on your property already that you could manage in ways that would improve their productivity and value. If this is not the case, your alternative is to identify what particular fruit or nut crops might be suitable for your site, and to begin establishing some new plantings. In an ideal scenario you may be able to combine the two approaches.

The information in this unit will help you decide which fruit and nut crops you may grow productively and profitably in your forest or woodlot. It also provides some guidance in how to do it. Before you begin to explore these information resources however, keep in mind that relatively little is known, with certainty, about cultivating nut and fruit crops in forest settings. When grown for commercial purposes, fruits and nuts commonly are produced in orchards, under relatively full sun and often the possibility of irrigation. Forest berries and most forest nuts tend not to be regarded by agriculture researchers as important crops. The limited availability of research-based information adds a considerable measure of uncertainty to your prospects for success in cultivating these crops.

Unless you have an exceptionally high tolerance for risk therefore, we suggest that you adopt two key measures as you learn to work with forest fruit and nut crops. First, proceed slowly in investing in new plant material. Try things out, see how they work and adjust your plans for expansion accordingly. Second, make an effort to learn from others who are experimenting in their own ways. Find out who else is working with these crops. Share your experience and encourage them to share with you. In addition to improving your own success, your insights will help to expand the knowledge base about farming fruit and nut crops in forest settings.

[White-tailed Deer Photo]
White-tailed Deer
Kenneth M. Gale. www.forestryimages.com
One more precaution!
Wildlife are fond of forest fruits and nuts, perhaps more than humans are, and a number of species depend on them as important food sources. It will be essential therefore, to consider your needs and options for deterring wildlife from consuming more than what you consider to be their `fair share’ of the bounty.