The hazelnut is the tasty seed of the fruit that grows on the hazelnut bush.
The hazelnut is one of the few nuts originally from Europe. Hazelnuts are the fruit of the ‘hazel’, a large shrub particularly common in countries around the Mediterranean Sea.
The hazelnut has been eaten for thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans already discovered their typical taste. In ancient times, it was regularly ascribed medicinal properties and was a symbol of peace and health. The scientific name for the hazelnut is Corylus avellana. The name can be traced back to its origins, which are in the Italian region of Avellana. The region has long been known for the cultivation of hazelnuts.
The hazelnut is part of the birch family, can grow up to five meters high and is rich in oils and fats. They are loved for their sweet, round taste and their crunchy core in a reddish-brown exterior. To get to the tasty nut it takes some work with the nutcracker to break open the woody skin of the fruit.
Surprisingly, the hazelnut is considered one of the oldest fruits. Even in the Stone Age, hazelnut bushes were common in the mixed oak forests that were widespread at the time. In those days, too, the hazelnut was an important source of nutrition. The hazelnut grows wild throughout Europe to this day. It is widely grown in Mediterranean countries and in Anatolia. The most important countries of production are Turkey and Italy.
Hazelnuts can be divided into three groups according to their shape. Round hazelnuts are medium-sized, easy to crack and of very high quality. The pointed hazelnuts, on the other hand, have a slightly elongated shape and the end of the flower is pointed or rounded. Cracking of this type easily damages the kernel, so they are generally only sold in shell. The long almond-shaped hazelnuts have the least impact on the hazelnut market. Although they are certainly large, the quality is low and not suitable for cracking. Hazelnuts are among the “real” nuts. Surprisingly, most foods described as nuts are not nuts at all, but fruit. The peanut, for example, is actually a legume – although we too list it as a nut.
There are many foods that contain hazelnuts, as they are available all year round. The harvest season in Turkey runs from the end of July to the beginning of August. In other regions, the harvesting season starts in September. Supply comes in many different forms; chopped, ground or whole with or without shell. Hazelnuts should be stored in a cool and dark place, with or without shell. You can also keep hazelnuts in the refrigerator for 6 months or in the freezer for 12 months. Once shelled, the nuts must be processed quickly.
Hazelnuts are a popular snack in a nut mix or on their own. They are great to use in fruit salads, in puddings or in sweet and savory pastries. The nuts are mainly used in chocolate hazelnut paste, nut puree, nut flower or the very special hazelnut oil. The high fat content of the nut makes it ideal for producing oil. Only a very small part of the worldwide production of hazelnuts is used to produce oil though, which is what makes it so special. Hazelnut oil has a very limited shelf life but is excellent as an aromatic flavoring.
Hazelnuts consist of 63% fat and 14% protein. They contain a lot of vitamins B and E as well as many minerals. The nuts have a clear and very high energy value and should be consumed in moderation, despite their valuable content. Clinical studies have shown that nuts consumed in normal quantities can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Hazelnuts are also said to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This effect is believed to be based on the lowering of cholesterol levels and does not apply solely to hazelnuts. Walnuts, peanuts and almonds also have positive nutritional values.
The laws of supply and demand have a huge impact on hazelnut pricing, as it’s a very accessible product. However, we don’t have to restrict ourselves to obviousness, as there are more concrete factors influencing the price. For one, there’s the Turkish hazelnut supply and export, as about 70 percent of all hazelnuts come from Turkey’s 600,000 tiny farms scattered along the country’s northern coast. In Italy, a second market of some importance, the measures for hazelnuts result from the application of the European regulations for the nuts sector. These regulations aimed to improve the hazelnut trade and price stabilization. Furthermore, they tried to improve technical assistance to farms and cultural practices.
Other factors include exchange rates, support price and the price of cocoa, as it is considered a complementary good in industrial processing.