When is the best time to harvest hazelnuts, and what is the best method for picking?
Hazelnuts are typically ready to be picked in the first weeks of August (lower latitudes) or the last weeks of August (upper latitudes). Keep in mind, color is not a good indicator of when to pick your hazelnuts. This is an indication that may work with apples or peaches, but not hazelnuts. Instead, try the “pop out” test (see below). If you wait for your hazelnuts to look ripe, hungry wildlife such as squirrels will devour your potential harvest.
Note: You may want to wear gloves when handling the nuts while still in their husks. The outer covering, or involucres, have stiff hairs that can penetrate skin.
“Pop Out” method:
- Pry the husk back and firmly push sideways on the nut.
- If the nut is mature, it will pop loose from its connection with the husk. However, hybrid hazelnuts tend to hang tight to their involucres.
- Again, color is not a factor. Some hybrids will be ripe before the nutshell turns brown.
- If the nut pops loose, test a few more nuts from the same bush so you have a reasonable sample.
- Select a second nut from the other side of the bush.
- Select a nut from a shady part of the bush, not from a branch in full sun.
- Select a nut from a large cluster, if any.
Further Steps: When a majority of the tested nuts pop out, harvest from the entire bush right away. And don’t worry about interfering with more growth of the nut. Once you are able to pop the nuts loose, they have already separated from the mother plant and are receiving no more help for growth or development.
How do you prepare hazelnuts (after harvest) to be eaten? Do they need to be cooked? Can they be eaten raw?
Hazelnuts can be cracked, dehulled, and eaten. For the best flavor, we suggest the following:
- Immediately after harvesting, store the nuts (in their husks) in an airy location, out of direct sunlight. Keep the hazelnuts in an area that is safe from animals.
- Next, remove the husks. The husks will usually come off easily when dry. Keep in mind some hybrids are more stubborn in giving up the husks than others. The stubborn ones are about half dry! If this is the case with yours, try re-wetting the husks.
- Place the husked nuts back on your drying surface where they have good air circulation. To ensure even drying, stir the nuts every couple of days. If your climate and weather are dry, this can be done outdoors in a shed, barn, or on a porch, otherwise an indoor room should be used.
- A signature way to test whether the seeds are appropriately dry is to take a handful of the nuts and shake them. If they rattle, the seeds have pulled away from the kernel and are ready to crack.
For best flavor, it is suggested that you store your hazelnuts for several months before eating them. Keep them in warm, dry storage, either spread out or in net bags.
Some folks enjoy eating raw hazelnuts right out of the husk. However, the flavor gets better with time when stored under the right conditions. To bring out the very best flavor, try roasting the hazels.
- Carefully crack and shell the hazelnuts.
- Preheat oven to 275° F.
- Spread cleaned nuts on a shallow pan.
- Roast at 275° F for 20–30 minutes (You should see the skins crack and nuts becoming light golden).
- To remove the skins, place the hot hazelnuts in the center of a terry towel and bundle into a small pack. Let stand to steam for about five minutes, then rub inside the towel until most of the skins are off.
Is my hazelnut bush male or female?
Males and females are found on the same bush (monoecious). However, hybrid hazelnuts are not self-fertile. Cross pollination between two plants must occur for nuts to form. Females are small but have an attractive red blossom. The males appear as catkins. Curiously, the catkins begin to form in late summer and grow to approximately an inch in length. Growth resumes in early spring and reaches 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches in length. The female flower tends to open in late February for pollination.
When is the best time to prune, and what method do you recommend?
After bushes begin to produce, yearly
renewal pruningis a good idea. However, remember that flowers and nuts will not produce on first-year growth.
- Prune in late winter when your bush is dormant.
- Remove some of the older stems, cutting them cleanly near the ground. Removing between 15 to 20 percent of the stems will maintain shrub size, increase sunlight and airflow throughout the plant, and stimulate new growth on which the nuts develop.
- Maintain a nice oval or rounded shape by removing unusually tall or misshaped branches, cutting back to the point of their origin or just above leaf nodes.
- Be on the lookout for dead or diseased branches (and remove at any time of the year). Cut back to healthy wood. When removing diseased stems, such as ones inflicted with blight, dip pruning blades in a 10-percent bleach-water solution between cuts.
How far apart should hazelnut shrubs be planted for optimal production?
We recommend spacing plants 8 feet apart within rows and 10–15 feet between rows. However, if you are planting for a privacy screen, etc., then spacing can be denser.
How long does it take for hazelnut shrubs to produce fruit?
As your hazelnuts grow, most of their energy will be spent on root production. Once the roots have established themselves, after a couple years, you should see a surge in growth, followed by the development of tiny flowers, male catkins, and ultimately, nuts in four to six years. Keep in mind, hazelnuts are not self-fertile and will need multiple bushes to have a chance at successful pollination.
What is the difference between the Arbor Day Foundation hazelnut shrubs (hybrid hazelnuts) and all the other available hazelnuts (European variety, American variety, beaked variety).
Our hybrid hazelnut is a cross between the Corylus Americana and European Corylus avellana. Some of its characteristics are: the nuts don’t free husk; it tends to sucker into more of a bush or shrub appearance; the nuts are generally smaller; and it can be planted across cold-hardy zones.
How do I protect my hazelnuts from wildlife (both the plant itself, when young, and the nuts)?
Protect your plants from animals such as deer, rabbits, and squirrels, as well as less-ideal growing weather, for the first couple of years. Past Charter Patron Members have listed animals and weather as their primary reasons for losing seedlings.
To protect against animals, keep your seedlings in a temporary garden or enclose them with chicken wire. To protect against extreme sun, consider putting shade cloth over your seedlings. (Mosquito nets also work and can be purchased at most big box stores).
Can you recommend any recipes that include hazelnuts?
Check out our recipes page for a variety of delicious dishes featuring hazelnuts. Candied Hazelnuts, Hazel-Crusted Trout, and Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti are just the beginning.