Nuts are an edible, protein-packed crop that many gardeners tend to overlook when planning their plantings. Many people opt out of growing their own nuts because most nuts grow on large trees. While trees such as chestnut and walnut provide shade and ornamental value, some landscapes lack the space to accommodate them. However, there are some nuts and nutlike seeds and legumes that do not grow on trees, and they require less growing space.
Chinquapin nuts come from a large bush that goes by the botanical name Castanea pumila. This bush is easily pruned to form an aesthetically pleasing, nut-producing shrub in the garden landscape. Thriving in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, the chinquapin bush is a hardy, adaptable plant that requires well-draining soil. Chinquapin nuts are likened to chestnuts in both appearance and flavor, although they are smaller. This bush is capable of reaching heights of 40 feet, although 6 to 15 feet is its average height.
Hazelnuts (Corylus spp.), also called filberts, are one of the few common nuts found in the grocery store that grow on bushes instead of trees. Hazelnut bushes thrive in USDA zones 4 through 8, reaching a height and width of 10 feet at maturity. The hazelnut bush is also easily pruned to form a hedge or serve as a foundation planting. Hazelnut bushes are prolific producers at maturity. This plant reaches maturity and begins to produce nut crops at 3 years of age. In the fall, the leaves of the hazelnut bush turn bright red.
Although technically legumes, coming from the Leguminosae plant family, peanuts are eaten in the same way as nuts that grow on trees. However, peanuts do not grow on trees, but on a plant that produces underground pods. This annual plant thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 and up. Requiring four to five months from planting to harvest, the peanut plant produces small yellow flowers before producing underground pods, or shells. Peanuts have many classic culinary applications.
Although technically not nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are eaten and used in similar culinary applications as nuts. They offer the same crunchy, salty satisfaction and grow as a part of other annual garden plants rather than on large trees. Sunflowers (Helianthus) are tall, large-blossomed annual flowers. Some varieties are grown specifically for their seeds, which develop inside the face of the flower. In the fall, people harvest and buy fresh pumpkins for their decorative and ornamental value, as well as their culinary applications in favorites like pumpkin pie. Growing inside the flesh of the pumpkin are its many medium-sized seeds that can be roasted, salted and eaten like nuts.