Hazelnuts are harvested in April of each year (in the NSW central west at least!) and after a little drying and gentle curing, the 2013 crop is now ‘out’ in the market and is a cracker (pardon the pun).
The kids and I drove out to local orchard Fourjay Farms the other day to stock up and say hello to growers Basil and Jean Baldwin.
These two are great experts on all things growing, harvesting and cooking hazelnuts, and every visit leaves us with new ideas and appreciation of the their crunchy and delicious crop.
- Hazlnut trees ‘blossom’ in Autumn and early Winter. So pretty much as soon as harvest finishes, the catkins (male flowers, pictured above) begin to bloom and get ready to blow away and find lady buds.
- If buying hazlenuts in bulk, it’s best to store them in the freezer (same goes for hazelnut meal). And you might also find that they are pretty delicious eaten frozen the crunch and flavour somehow intensified by the cold.
- The best way to roast hazlenuts is in a low oven for a good half an hour or so. I always thought a quick blast in a hot oven was the go but no. This way is so so much better and seems to intensify the flavours tenfold.
- If cured and dried properly, unshelled hazlenuts will keep their flavour and crunch for up to 12 months. As soon as they are harvested, Jean and Basil air-dry their nuts in the sun for 4-5 days, they are then finished in a drying cabinet and stored in cool, dark silos.
So if after all of this, you are in the mood for a little nut action…please jump over to Village Voices where I’ve just posed this recipe for hazlenut, chocolate and espresso cake. It’s just beautiful for pudding, afternoon tea etc and lasts for ages.