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Getting to Know Hazelnuts

hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are multi-faceted nuts with wide applications in sweet and savory dishes around the world. Read on to learn more about hazelnuts and to discover mouthwatering recipes that utilize them in a variety of ways. 

What are Hazelnuts?

Hazelnuts, also known as filberts and cobnuts, are found in the genus Corylus, which includes 15 species of trees that produce edible nuts. Corylus avellana is by far the most popular hazel tree. Hazelnuts are technically the fruits of the hazel tree and vary in shape and size depending on their species. While some are more circular, others are elongated in shape. 

Hazelnuts are enclosed in a hard shell that’s further packed inside a light husk. When the nut ripens, it simply falls out of the husk and is collected from the ground. Intriguingly, hazelnuts are covered by another thin, dark brown layer that is often removed before consuming, revealing cream-colored nuts that somewhat resemble chickpeas. 

Image Credit: artistlike from Pixabay

The earliest evidence for human consumption of hazelnuts was unearthed in Scotland where thousands of hazelnut shells were discovered inside a shallow pit at the Island of Colonsay, around 8000 years ago. Today, Turkey, Italy, Spain, the United States, and Greece are among the top producers of hazelnuts. Turkey is the largest producer and accounts for 75% of the world’s hazelnut production.

Flavor of Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts offer a nutty-creamy flavor coupled with earthy, and musty undertones. The texture of hazelnuts is smooth and buttery with a pleasant crunch. Raw almonds taste similar to hazelnuts and are a cost-effective substitute for expensive hazelnuts. 

Use for Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts can be used fresh, dried, roasted, pureed, sliced, and powdered. Hazelnuts are usually leveraged into confections like pralines, hazelnut chocolate bars, chocolate truffles, hazelnut meringues, hazelnut cheesecakes, and the ever-famous chocolate hazelnut spread, Nutella. 

Turkish cuisine uses hazelnuts in desserts like baklava, cookies, cakes, candies, and puddings. Hazelnut biscotti is a popular Italian cookie featuring flour, sugar, eggs, hazelnuts, almonds, and other flavorings. Hazelnuts are an integral part of muesli, a protein-rich cereal consisting of oats, nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, and dried seeds. Our recipes Apricot and Hazelnut Breakfast Bars and Chocolate Hazelnut Breakfast Buns feature roasted hazelnuts.

Many savory dishes incorporate hazelnuts in the form of a paste, where they add a nutty-sweet flavor coupled with a rich velvety texture. For instance, chicken curries, stews, soups, and sauces. Roasted, and crushed hazelnuts are also added to stir-frys, pasta, and salads for a hearty crunch. Try out our Cream of Butternut Soup with Maple Nut Crunch Topping for a savory-sweet hazelnut punch.

Feature Image: jacqueline macou from Pixabay

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