Corylus avellana

Hazelnuts, also known as Filberts, are a wonderful perennial food. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is the nation’s largest producer of hazelnuts, providing the US with 99% of its hazelnuts and making up 3% of world market. Turkey is the world’s biggest producer.

Hazelnut production is beginning in Minnesota too. Thought the European varieties aren’t hardy there, the native shrubs, Corylus americana and Corylus cornuta produce good quality nuts. Lois Braun is doing postgraduate work at the University of Minnesota on hazelnuts. I’ve seen her ride her bike with about a half dozen potted little hazel trees in baskets on the back. Also at the U of M, Paula Westmoreland is researching multi-function plant communities involving hazels, including possible cut flower under-story cash crops such as daffodils.

Today I drove an hour southwest on the Pacific highway to McMinnville, (to un-decorate a hotel). Along the way there were fields and fields of hazelnuts, their catkins softly pink in the grey day. I was surprised that they were much more of a tree than a bush like the English ones I’ve seen and native ones in the Midwest. Apparently in the Pacific Northwest the trees are pruned that way so the nuts can be harvested by machine when they fall to the ground. A tree can produce nuts for 40 to 50 years.

In England there are landscapes that have been altered by humans for so long that a whole new ecosystem has evolved. One of these is the hedgerow, another is the coppiced woods which are often comprised of hazel. A singular animal lives there: It hops from branch to low branch, feasts on nuts, seeds and bramble berries on the sun-dappled forest floor and often falls soundly asleep. It is the dormouse.

Hazelnuts can be used in either sweet or savory dishes. They taste good with chocolate, goat cheese, in salads and pastries. While they are more commonly eaten in Europe, they are gaining popularity in the US as a flavor for ice cream, coffee and biscotti. The European favorite Nutella can be found here too, it combines chocolates and hazelnuts to make a spread that some consume in large quantities, smearing it on crepes, bread, cookies, crackers and fruit.

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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2 Responses to Corylus avellana

  1. Amber says:

    How lovely to stumble into your blog! Love the plants, and I’m feeling homesick for Oregon. I went to college in McMinnville and now live in Brooklyn, NY.

    I remember hearing from a friend that Filberts and Hazelnuts are actually slightly different, but I’m curious to know whether that’s actually the case, or whether it’s REALLY just a local name thing.

    Anyway, thanks for the lovely sights and info!


  2. Administrator says:

    What’s up Brooklyn!
    Thanks for the good question. Hopefully this will sort things:

    In practice, the names hazelnut and filbert are interchangeably used for any of the 15 species and numerous varieties in the genus Corylus. In cooking and nut marketing, the term hazelnut is often used because it sounds sexier. It’s all very sketchy, but the name filbert may have come from the fact that in Britian, the nuts begin ripening around St. Philbert’s day, in late August. Or it could have come from the un-hip sounding voll bart, from the German for ‘full beard’ in reference to the appearance of the husk around the shell. Full beards? Beards, certainly, but not ‘full beards’. In general though, if you want to be more specific, ‘filberts’ are the European natives C. avellana and C. maxima. The nuts are medium sized and elongated. The large subspecies C. avellana grandis is referred to as ‘cobnut’, while the cultivar C. avellana ‘Barcelona’ is a very large, round nut sometimes called the Oregon hazelnut. ‘Hazelnuts’ then, are the American natives C. americana, C. cornuta and C. corlurna. Several species of Corylus native to Asia also are called hazelnuts.

    If you want to get really technical, here are the accepted scientific and common names of the most widely grown species, according to the USDA Plants Database:

    C. americana American hazelnut
    C. avellana Common filbert
    C. corlurna Turkish hazelnut
    C. cornuta Beaked hazelnut
    C. ferox Himalayan hazelnut
    C. heterophylla Siberian hazelnut
    C. maxima Giant filbert

    More hazelnut/filbert terminology, for use in ice cream shops abroad:
    Italian Nocciola
    French Noisette, hazelnut, Aveline, filbert
    German Haselnuss
    Spanish Avellana

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