Cold hardy nuts for food (suburb, zone 6)

Hi folks, seeking advice about cold hardy nuts, high food producers that are low maintenance, and can go in a large suburban lot that backs up to woods. (You may have seen my post about my dream of a communal food forest.)

I’m currently thinking cold-hardy hazelnuts.

Almonds sound high-maintenance but maybe I’m wrong?

Other ideas of nuts that my family and neighbors would actually want to eat?


Hazelnuts are the best and most reliable - hardy to zone 4, maintainance once in 5years when established. And that is practically only pruning + harvesting canes for other use in the garden (support of plants or weaving garden bed edges, etc.) And you can find visually interesting varieties with good yield to make them more appealing for the community…

Some almond are more frost resistant than others ( I’ve recently planted Ferraduel and Nikitskij, but time will tell.). There is a higher risk of disappointment in some years.

Walnuts are huge and can ‘manage themselves’ by dropping branches (not so great for a community garden) and there is always the issue of juglone and shade.

Don’t know about hickory and pecan.


Walnut, hickory, pecan are - ultimately - very large trees, and you usually need at least two of each, with compatible pollen-shed/nutlet flower receptivity patterns to get good crops. Depending up on the size of your lot, you may not have enough room for them.

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Also, walnuts can be damaged by late frost even in zone 7. The problem is that you lose the flowers for this year and the buds for next year which are on the new shoots and have the buds for the next season. So you may lose 2 seasons of nuts in one go. And it looks even sadder than it sounds. (It may take until June to for the trees to recover and sprout again. Until then, they wear black.)

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I would reach out to Buzz Ferver at Perfect Circle Farm in VT; he is z4 and is a huge nut guy and can help with ideas

He breeds his own cold hardy nut varieties and is always looking for different ones, esp cold hardy ones.

Walnut and hickory trees get huge and so you have multiple variables that he can help with (size, space, cold hardy, self fruiting, etc)

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Maybe stating the obvious, but further to your theme re the ecosystem. Many nuts have insect pests that lay eggs in the nut, which hatch to make worms. Also squirrels will strip nuts, which they and other animals will eat off the ground. Or store / bury for later eating.

I’ve been where you are – imagining an idyllic scene picking hazelnuts or almonds off a tree or off a garden floor. I planted hazelnuts once – the squirrels got them all.

On the other hand, I have had very good luck with Chinese Chestnuts. I picked 1300 off two small trees last fall. Maybe 2-3% had worms. But please note that (1) I make a job out of killing squirrels, (2) I knock the chestnuts out of the tree before then can hit the ground and be eaten by deer; and (3) these chestnuts ripen within a very narrow window so I can pick the whole crop in less than a week.


Chestnuts re also great for gatherings in the garden as you can roast them as you harvest and do some autumn clean-up.

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Oh cool I was just looking at their website.

Thanks I appreciate the hard-won wisdom!

I am zone 5 according to the old chart and zone 6a according to the new zone chart. I don’t recommend almonds unless you are in a really warm area. The almonds nursery claim to be zone 5 hardy never seem to come out the second year. From my limited experience if you want something like an almond sweet pit apricot are a much hardier way with growing to zone 4 and you get fruit with the added benefit. That being said apricot are still known to be prone to late freezes. My hazelnut have seen mixed results. Some seem to be thriving in their second year while others died. The ones that are living have only lived for 1 snow season though. The Stark Bros only pecans of Starking Hardy Giant and Surecrop seem to live where I am. Their tissue still feels soft to the touch while my Meyer pecan is super hard to the touch when I take a fingernail to it. All my nuts seem to be dormant still though. My butternut has come back multiple years.

At many parks… you can forage for those larger tree nuts like hickory or walnut.

Shagbark and shellbark hickory nuts are excellent eating nuts… but they can be a bit of a challenge to get cracked and the nut meat out… compared to the thinner shelled pecans.

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Likely depends where you live. Our parks don’t seem to keep anything edible sadly.

The Natchez Trace parkway runs thru my county… not to far from my home.

They allow harvesting of lots of wild berries, fruit, nuts… but in specific quantity max per day.

1 gal of hickory nuts per person per day.

That seems like more than enough. I am guessing that is only to stop people from pulling something similar to what happened with the hand sanitizer with covid and just having one person take them all and sell them. Though it seems to happen even with product limits sometimes. Look up what happened with the Disney 50th been there mugs. People are reselling the magic kingdom and the Epcot for over 200 dollars and many who went there could not get one despite the 2 per person limit. You are lucky you have people enforcing rules and your parks have them.

@IntrepidNewbie You might check out Javid’s Iranian almond. Hardy to at least 5a, being trialed in colder areas, later blooming. It’s said to have high disease resistance, but information is sparse. I put in several and will see how they do.


A follow-up question… I have 2 cherry trees.

Could I graft almond on my cherry trees? Has anyone found that to work? They’re both prunus.

For the life of me I couldn’t find Javid for actual sale in the US, not even at England’s.

The only cold hardy almond I found was Hall’s and it’s taller than my yard can manage.

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Those two are veeery far apart. You could graft it on a peach, though. There even crosses of the two with a peach-like shell.

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@Tana can I buy that hybrid somewhere, or is it mostly in research stage? When I googled the top results were scientific papers.

I have one called Robijn. It is available throughout Europe.