Hazelnut bushes experience quite a transformation during their growing season. By the end of winter, they bear long, cream-colored tendrils that hang like old, decrepit Christmas tree decorations from their bare branches. By the time summer comes, those tendrils are clusters of bright green, frilly seed casings (pictured bottom) that each bear one hazelnut. It’s essential to harvest them before the squirrels and chipmunks grab them.
Pick them when they are green (bottom picture) and dry them for three days in the sun. The green casings look and act rather like shells with frilly edges or wontons that have been pinched closed before being cooked. You can pull apart the frills to “unwrap” the hazelnut.
Hazelnuts are the chief ingredient of Nutella, which is a staple of the northern European diet. As a Brit, I have always harbored a fondness for hazelnuts because of this delicious chocolate spread. We eat tonnes of it; and French people have it on toast for breakfast. Nutella now has a factory in Canada and that explains the Nutella invasion we’re now experiencing in New York State.
According to the New York Nut Growers Association it’s a challenge to grow these nuts in New York, but this year, we had a yield of about two pounds. They’ll be turned into nut butter.