Common name: Common hazel
Botanical name: Corylus avellana
Family: Betulaceae (Birch)
Worldwide distribution: Native to western Asia and Europe.
Local distribution: Very common throughout the British Isles and Ireland.
Habitat: Woodland, hedgerow and scrub.
Foraging season: Nuts late summer to early autumn.
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.
The name hazelnut applies 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.
The 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 off.
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.