Gathering hazelnuts, whether from the wild or your garden, is one of the pleasures of autumn that takes our minds off the long, cold winter ahead. Filberts (Corylus maxima) and cobnuts (Corylus avellana) are both hazelnuts, but have slightly different husks. The husk completely encases filberts, but only partially covers cobnuts. Nuts can deteriorate or become damaged on the ground, so gather them as soon as they start to fall, or even earlier if you're competing with local wildlife for the delicious harvest. Thoroughly dried hazelnuts will last through the winter, reminding you of mellow autumn days.
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Things you need
- Shallow, slatted boxes or net bags
- Baking tray (optional)
Harvest hazelnuts from late September to October. The husks covering the nuts turn from green to yellow or brown as they ripen and nuts begin to fall from the trees. Pick up all fallen nuts and return to the tree daily to check for more. Use a stick to sweep through the debris and find hidden ones. Test hazelnuts on the tree within reach, pulling on them gently. If they come away easily they're ripe. In areas with squirrels, you may need to remove the nuts before they're fully ripe.
Dry hazelnuts before removing the husks. Spread them in a thin layer in a shallow slatted box, or put them in net bags, and store in a cool, dry, airy room. If using net bags, hang them up. Turn or mix the nuts daily so that the husks dry evenly. Remove the husks from the nuts when they're thin and papery.
Roast hazelnuts in their shells. Heat an oven to 180C (345F or Gas Mark 4). Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Move them around and turn them every 10 minutes so that they cook evenly. Store in airtight containers or freeze. Nuts will also store without roasting if kept dry and cool.
Tips and warnings
- Cobnut and filbert trees are self fertile but crops are larger where more than one cultivar is grown.
- Trees start producing nuts when they're three or four years old.
- Don't store damaged hazelnuts. These are likely to rot and the rot can spread to other nuts in storage.
- Stored nuts can encourage mice.
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