The hazelnut bushes are thriving in the orchard and we got hundreds more nuts this year than last year. We have about four or five pounds. They grow in beautiful pods that are like frilly fingers on green hands that offer you the fruit. Once picked, the green frills dry into a husk which you have to peel off to reveal the hazelnut.
Like all nuts, hazelnuts are high in fat, but also a good source of magnesium, iron, fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Hazelnuts are the basis of Nutella, a delicious European chocolate spread. While the nuts dry, we’ll decide what to do with them.
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.
Hazelnut bushes in the orchard, planted in 2007, get a chance to properly flourish this spring possibly because they now have a sturdy fence around them. In years past, we’ve only harvested a handful of the nuts that grow in a thick, green, furry casing. The bushes, which can grow into large trees, are self-infertile so it’s necessary to plant at least two together for cross-pollination. The male catkins, pictured above, which produce pollen that they release onto the red female flowers, are a food staple of ruffed grouse throughout the winter. The nuts are a preferred by squirrels, deer, turkey, woodpeckers, pheasants, grouse, quail and jays.