The hazelnut or filbert bush has produced its first harvest! This is very exciting for me since hazelnuts are my favorite nut and this is my first attempt at growing them. The small tree is about six feet tall. The leaves are turning lovely shades of orange, mahogany and gold and the nut clusters are changing from yellow-green to dark brown. As the husks of the nuts brown, they slowly dry until the nuts inside are released to drop to the ground. I am picking nuts early, before they drop.
The first nut was the most rewarding for me because I didn’t know if the tree was able to pollinate. Without pollination it forms empty nutshells. Cracking that first nut open, I found it filled with a plump kernel of white meat. Fresh hazelnuts that haven’t been given time to dry taste like raw peanuts mixed with hazelnut, yummy in their own way.
The nut husks are large, pulpy, extravagantly frilled affairs covered with a down of short hairs and slight stickiness. They occur singly or as pairs on my tree. The husks are concealed beneath the leaves, hard to spot. At harvest time commercial growers shake the trees and sweep the nuts up with large machines. The floor of the orchard is kept bare, free of all vegetative growth, to facilitate the sweeping. I will have to pick my filberts by hand. I hope not to lose too many to dropping out of the husk into the thick grass before I can get them.
The whitish part of a hazelnut shell is oriented toward the base of the husk, closest to the branch. Since I’ve never seen a filbert tree produce, all this information is fascinating for me.
There are two hazelnuts in my orchard. The second one is tiny and failing to thrive. I sure hope it survives so I can continue to get nuts. As soon as it goes dormant I will move it a couple feet in case there is something wrong with the hole that is preventing its growth. I guess if it dies, I can always buy another.