Willis Orchard Co

Business Description:

It is the goal of Willis Orchard Company to make you a satisfied customer--we can accomplish this only by providing quality trees and plants at affordable prices.


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Melissa's Review


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East Longmeadow, MA

Willis Orchard Co

Misleading/dangerously incomplete description and NO customer contact!

We were looking for almond trees to plant in the northeast. Found Hall's Hardy Almond here -- go read the description. They wound perfect. Problem is Hall's are NOT edible off the tree and in fact can be dangerous as they contain a toxin that must be processed out before eating!!!! This is mentioned NOWHERE it just says the nuts are sweet! They also are not particularly sweet even AFTER you learn how to process them for consumption. Not as sweet as regular almond trees. Someone could actually get ill from eating these without processing. When I learned this was probable and tried contacting the company to confirm both that and the pollination (as I was reading conflicting things) it took several weeks, multiple emails and attempts at contact and finally got a brief, one sentence answer with no concern that their website description left us with 2 trees that are not what we really wanted, nor were they safe without further work to the nut. #FAIL


Melissa, your email raised concerns so I have been doing some research and some pondering of our description. I contacted an old commercial grower friend of mine in California to get his thoughts on your comments. Here was his reply.

"It originated in Coffeyville, Kansas around 1925 by Mr. Hall of Willis Nursery (thought you might get a kick out of that coincident). Willis Nursery was in Ottawa, Kansas. My father says we have been growing it since before he joined the company in 1950. To this day we are unaware of any hazards.
But Sweet is a relative term and one I see used in many descriptive guides but, in this case, needs more clarity.
The term sweet pit refers to edible pits as opposed to the bitter pit which you really do not or should not eat. Let me switch pits and mention the Apricots. Most apricots are bitter pit and have enough cyanide to make it bitter and toxic if eaten in quantity. But there are several Sweet pit apricots like Montrose and Chinese (Mormon) which are sold as Sweet Pit. This is a relative thing. They are edible but not like a Non pareil Almond.
We have eaten the Halls Hardy and it has a good almond flavor. It is definitely much harder to crack. It is not as sweet as the commercial almonds because it does have a touch of bitterness to it (so does a walnut in my opinion when comparing Walnuts to Pecans or Almonds). But it is not a bitter pit and inedible. And Hall's is a beautiful tree in the spring and can grow almonds into colder areas than the sweeter commercial varieties if you are willing to work a little harder for the kernels. And semi-self fertile so you dont have to use a pollinator although if nuts are important to you, you should."

Melissa, I learned something new browsing the internet that cooking seems to remove the touch of bitterness. Need to learn more and try to improve some of the descriptions. I will be updating my Hall's Hardy Almond description on my web-site soon to reflect the bitter-sweet so homeowners are not comparing them apples to oranges with the commercial varieties. , thanks to your review. Although it's not the positive that we all here strive for, it is one which is fair and will help us to improve.

Thank you,

J. Willis

Willis Orchard Co commented on 04/23/2014