I am nuts about nuts. I love to eat them, but even more so I love to cook with them ~ then eat them. Given the chance, I could spend on nuts what others spend at a coffee shop, easily and regularly. I can’t decide if walnuts or hazelnuts are my favourite*, so when we discovered last autumn that we have both in the garden I felt like a kid in a sweet shop with the biggest smile on my face.
Having only ever purchased nuts from a store, having the chance to forage, collect and prepare had me bouncing with excitement. Every morning, when I would go to let the animals out, I would take my basket and on hands and knees forage under the hazelnut tree. It wouldn’t take long for my basket to fill.
It was only a matter of a few weeks letting the nuts dry before I was able to start cracking them. I found a number of recommendations on the wonderful internet on how to crack them, but the best I came across was using a large plastic ziploc bag, placing the bag on the stone floor and tapping the nuts with a mallet.
At first I would hit too hard and pulverise the shell, and consequently the nut within – though was still able to extract some for use. With a bit of practise I got very adept at tapping just so and splitting the hard shell.
And since nothing goes to waste here, the ’empty’ broken shells were then put out for the chickens to forage through. They always managed to find a few tasty morsels I had missed or were too small for my use, but perfect size for a chicken.
Once I completed a bag, I would extract the nuts from the shells and put them on a baking sheet and into a low temperature oven to roast for about 20 – 30 minutes.
Our hazelnut tree, although small, was amazingly prolific. Throughout the winter, as I would run out of them, I would go through the process again from a basket of the nuts kept on our sideboard. We’re now down to our last batch, but it should keep us until the next ones are ready to harvest.
*Favourite Nut? Hmmm, I have to say I think walnuts just pip hazelnuts at the post, but only because they have a tiny bit more diversity, like Broccoli Stem Walnut Pesto.
Farm In My Pocket was the best site I found for information all around on hazelnuts if you are thinking of growing your own tree and/or harvesting.