Nuts about Nuts!Leave a Comment
One thing is for sure, I’m never the first to spot a good harvest of hazelnuts in the hedges. As I walk along the country lanes looking and checking for blackberries, damsons, rose-hips and mushrooms, I’ll also be checking amongst the hazel branches for this years crop of nuts. This year has been a good one for the hazel family and the branches are dotted with little clusters of potential Ferrero Rocher!
Long before I notice the nutty little gems, unfortunately the local squirrels (all of them) are already well on the case! For me, the equivalent of a nut alarm is discovering mounds of already cracked, opened and eaten shells along the lanes beneath overhanging branches. This little scenario can happen anytime from mid August onwards, long before the nuts have fully matured and developed a good, deep nutty flavour. There is no solution, other than to pick early and enjoy them as they are, on the green side! The advantage of early picking, other than beating the squirrel at his or her own game, is the much softer shell. These can almost be cracked by a good and firm set of teeth, though if you’ve any expensive crowns, bridges or dentures I still recommend a nut cracker!
Hazelnuts are by far the most common wild nut, although there are a few others. The hazelnut (corylus avellana) grows wild on poorer land and hillsides, however they are often found in hedgerows alongside birch, beech, oak, dogwoods and hawthorn. Although we find plenty of wild hazelnuts in Carmarthenshire, the larger cobnut is only really commonly found in Kent.
Hazelnuts – The Facts
- The hazelnut is the single-seeded fruit of the hazel tree, which grows to a height of 7 m. Hazelnuts are shell fruit (nut types) & the nut ripens from mid-August.
- The edible kernel within consists of delicious-tasting hard flesh enclosed in a brownish seat coat.
- The hazelnut kernel is surrounded by a brown seed coat, which contains antioxidants which protect the oil-rich seed from atmospheric oxygen, preventing it from becoming rancid.
- To harvest them, sheets of cloth are laid beneath the trees and the branches of the trees are then shaken. The nuts are subsequently dried in a well-ventilated place.
- Cobnuts were popular with mariners, as they kept fresh for months; the Victorians were devoted to them and bred many new kinds.
- In 1913, plantations extended to over 7,000 acres, most of the orchards or “plats” being in Kent.
- Fortunately cobnuts are NOT prone to pests and diseases, and there is rarely any commercial need for crop protectants or fertilisers; many growers use none at all.