When in Rome: Molnar utilizes Italian equipment
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Since there has been a large hazelnut industry in Italy for many years, Rutgers Associate Professor of Plant Biology, Dr. Thomas Molnar, and his team of researchers got approval to purchase specialized harvesting equipment from Chianchia, a company based in Cherasco, Italy.
Inside one of several barns on site, Molnar demonstrated the machinery.
“From the breeding program we produce a lot of nuts. The harvester just scoops them off the ground,” he said, hopefully before the raccoons living nearby find out.
“We lost a lot of nuts to raccoons but we harvested about 1,000 pounds of nuts this year,” he said, noting last year’s harvest amounted to 3,000 pounds of nuts as the weather was more cooperative in the 2017 growing season.
“Hazelnuts can sit in storage for a year and still taste fairly good,” he added, noting nuts distributed at the Great Tomato Tasting on Aug. 29 of this year were actually about a year old.
Molnar and his team have put open bags of peanuts in sorting areas where hazelnuts are stored to distract the few raccoons savvy enough to jump through openings in glass windows in the greenhouses.
The sheller, cleaner and harvesting machines were all ordered from a company in Pennsylvania that does business with Chiancia in Italy.
For shelling hazelnuts at home, Molnar recommends a pair of locking pliers, such as vice grips.
“If you’re going to cook with hazelnuts, vice grips are your best bet,” he said.
The hazelnut sheller machine costs about $5,000, while the cleaner costs about $7,500.
The hazelnut harvester that vacuums fallen nuts off the ground goes for about $4,000.
“It’s worth it if you have upwards of 200 trees and you’re a farmer. You can easily sell hazel nuts for $10 to $15 a pound.”
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