Growing Hazelnuts in the Garden

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A hazelnut tree holds lots of visual and tactile interest.
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In “Eat Your Yard! Edible Trees, Shrubs, Vines, Herbs and Flowers for Your Landscape,” author Nan K. Chase shares her first-hand experience with gardening, landscaping ideas and special culinary uses for fruit trees. Recipes for edible garden plants include the crabapple and quince, nut trees, such as the chestnut and almond, and herbs and vines like the bay, grape, lavender, mint, and thyme. She instructs how to harvest pawpaw, persimmon, and other wildflowers for your meal as well as figs, kumquats, olives and other favorites. 
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Hazelnut flowers appear as delicate hanging clusters, or catkins, that seem to glow from withing.

Eat Your Yard! (Gibbs Smith, 2010) has information on 35 edible plants that offer the best of both landscape and culinary uses. Edible garden plants provide spring blossoms, colorful fruit and flowers, lush greenery, fall foliage, and beautiful structure, but they also offer fruits, nuts, and seeds that you can eat, cook, and preserve.

Buy this book in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Eat Your Yard!

Read more from Eat Your Yard!
Edible Mint for Your Garden
Edible Roses: Beautiful and Delicious Garden Features

Eating Hazelnuts

Crack! The sound of a ripe hazelnut being broken open before Thanksgiving dinner is unmistakable. So is the ruddy color of the hard little shell. Hazelnut flavor: that’s unmistakable too, sweet and earthy, with a little crunch.

Hazelnut, filbert. They’re interchangeable as far as the nut industry is concerned and, botanically speaking, quite close.

The important thing is that the filbert, or hazelnut, grows as a beautiful shrub or small tree with year-round interest. Pendu­lous catkins–the blooms–hang like golden chains from the bare branches in late winter. During summer the rounded, many-pleated leaves provide islands of shade as the nuts develop. In fall the leaves glow red and gold.

Some filberts have special landscape value on their own–the contorted filbert, or Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, for instance–and are grown as specimen trees. Others are chosen for screening; filberts rarely grow taller than twenty feet, and some stay much smaller. Because filberts need cross-pollination with other varieties, it’s imperative to mix and match anyway.

There are two ways to grow filberts: as individual trees with single, or at most a few, trunks; and as a hedge of medium height. Imagine a garden plant with such versatility.

The natural growing habit features “suckering,” or the tendency for the plant to throw up many extra shoots around the main trunk. That’s perfect for a hedge configuration; space the plants just four feet apart and let the suckers fill in the spaces. For more intense nut production as well as for ornamental treatment, situate the plants about fifteen feet apart and keep suckers off. Hazelnut trees may need to be netted once nut production begins; squirrels love them.

“Heavy, rich land should be avoided,” advises one filbert master. These marvelous nut trees prefer a light, edge-of-the-forest soil with good drainage and not too much nutrient content; the trees will grow too much vegetation and not enough fruit if given an overindulgent diet. Likewise, they don’t particularly relish a burn­ing sun but like a bit of dappled canopy nearby.

One generality is that filberts thrive where peaches also grow. That is, they like some warmth but can succeed in a colder climate if well sheltered from wind and damp frost.

Sweet & Spicy Hazelnuts Recipes

Yield: 3 cups

1 pound shelled hazelnuts (about 3 cups)
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread nuts on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until they are lightly roasted and the skin starts to come off.

Remove from the oven and let cool. With a clean, non-fuzzy dish towel, rub the skins off the nuts. Reserve the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, reduce oven heat to 250 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk egg white and water until foamy. Add hazelnuts and toss to coat well. Transfer the nuts to a sieve, shake, and then drain for at least 2 minutes. Mix all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add drained nuts and toss to coat.

On the baking sheet, spread nuts in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir with a spatula, spread the nuts out again, and bake 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until the nuts are dry. Loosen the nuts from the baking sheet and let them cool to room temperature on the sheet. Let the nuts cool completely and become crisp before putting them away. They can be stored for up to one month in an airtight container.

Recipe courtesy of The Hazelnut Council.

Reprinted with permission from Eat Your Yard! Edible Trees, Shrubs, Vines, Herbs and Flowers for Your Landscape by Nan K. Chase and published by Gibbs Smith, 2010. Buy this book from our store: Eat Your Yard! Edible Trees, Shrubs, Vines, Herbs and Flowers for Your Landscape.