Hazelnut: Plant profile
Common Hazel, Hazelnut Tree, Cobnut, Filbert, Coll
Corylus avellana & other Corylus sp.
Native to western Asia and Europe. Very common throughout the British Isles and Ireland.
Where to find Hazelnuts
Woodland, hedgerow and scrub.
When to find Hazelnuts
Ripe nuts late summer to early autumn.
How to identify Hazel
Hazel is a deciduous tree with smooth grey trunk. The leaves are round to oval and serrated on the edges. Male and female flowers are in the same plant. Male flowers hang in green catkins during winter until they open out to reveal tiny pale yellow flowers. The female flowers are extremely tiny and resemble a scaly green bud with a bundle of delicate red tendrils emerging from the top. The nuts are green and have a papery sheath, until they ripe, become brown and fall down the tree.
The name Hazelnut can be applied to the nuts of any of the species of the genus Corylus. You are most likely to find Cobnuts (Corylus avellana) and Filbert nuts (Corylus maxima), but they have extensively hybridised.
All about Hazel
Hazel has been linked to folklore and traditions for centuries, regarded as a magical tree. Hazel rods were used for water-divining and converted into magic wands that supposed to protect against evil spirits, as it was said to be an excellent energy conductor.
The pendulous bright-yellow catkins are one of the first signs of the monotonous winter going to an end, long before the hazelnuts are ready to be harvested in early autumn.
These nuts can be picked at the immature stage when husks and shells are still young and green but are mostly harvested when the husks turn brown and start to fall down. Wild hazelnuts are usually smaller in size and tend to be more flavourful than cultivated varieties.
Medicinal properties of Hazel
Hazel has been used for medicinal purposes but there isn’t extensive scientific research.
Hazelnuts are a good source of calcium, protein, fiber and potassium and are high in a type of healthy fat called monounsaturated fat.
Culinary uses and recipes with Hazelnut
Unripe hazelnuts can be eaten raw and feel in the mouth crunchy and succulent with a bit of acidic taste.
Fully ripe nuts go well with cheese and dried fruits.
Hazelnuts are widely used in confectionery and have a great affinity for chocolate. They are also a great addition to cereals, granola and Swiss muesli and add a crunchy texture to cake, biscuits and breads.
Safe foraging of Hazelnuts
Individuals allergic to nuts might also be allergic to Hazelnut.
Ecological importance of Hazel
The leaves provide food for the caterpillars of several moth species,while the flowers provide early pollen as a food for bees.
The nuts are eaten by birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches, as well as small mammals such as dormice and squirrels.
The trunks are often covered in mosses, liverworts and lichens.