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What do we know about filberts (Hazelnuts) (Hazelnuts) in history?
Carbonized filbert shells were discovered in 1972 in an archaeological excavation near Pompeii, in a site destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. We know that the filbert nut was exported from regions near the Black Sea at least 2,000 years ago. It is, in fact, one of the oldest cultivated plants of Europe, having been grown for many centuries in Turkey, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and England. By the eleventh century, filberts (Hazelnuts) were traded in the markets of Genoa. In 1773 filbert nuts were brought into Russia, and exchanged for leather and velvet. The International Exhibition in London displayed Turkish filberts (Hazelnuts) in 1851.
filberts (Hazelnuts) are also known as hazelnuts. The nut-bearing hazel has long been associated with mystic rites and the occult. In ancient Rome, hazel torches were burned during the wedding night as a token of fertility and to ensure a happy marriage. A forked divining rod, made from the Y-shaped branch of a hazel, was regarded in remote times as a tool for finding buried treasure. During the Dark and Middle Ages, the hazel rod was used in attempts to detect underground streams of water and unseen veins of precious metals. There are references to the hazelnut in Shakespeare?s works. And even today, dowsing enthusiasts employ rods made from hazelnut wood.
What is the best climate for cultivating filberts (Hazelnuts), and where is it found?
filberts (Hazelnuts) require mild winters, warm springs and cool summers. They absolutely cannot tolerate late freezes. Mostly they grow near bodies of water which moderate the climate.
Thus, there are four limited geographical regions in the world where filberts (Hazelnuts) are produced today. Approximately 70% of all filberts (Hazelnuts) grown come from small Turkish farms bordering the southern coast of the Black Sea. Another 20% grows in the coastal regions of Italy, 7% grows in Spain?s Mediterranean coastal areas, and the remaining 3% is produced in the coastal valleys of Oregon and Washington, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
What types of filberts (Hazelnuts) grow in the United States?
There are two species of filberts (Hazelnuts) indigenous to North America. One is the American filbert located primarily in the East, and the other is the beaked filbert, which ranges from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Both are small, hardy, shrubby trees or bushes. The nuts from these species are small, with thick shells, and they are of inferior quality. They are mainly used as food for wildlife, and not for human consumption.
In the western United States, the Corylus nut is known as filbert, while in the East it is referred to as hazelnut. It also sometimes used to be called ?cob nut?. Generally speaking, all of these names are used interchangeably.
The tasty filbert of commerce that is cultivated in the United States comes from European stock. In 1629 filberts (Hazelnuts) were included in a selection of seeds sent to the Massachusetts Company. By 1771 filbert plants were being offered for sale in New York, in William Prince?s nursery catalog.
Although attempts were made to grow filberts (Hazelnuts) in the northeastern United States, as well as the Midwest and the South, they mostly failed, due to one or another of the following reasons: a filbert blight, winter killing of the catkins (pollen producing organs), winter killing of the trees themselves, or unsuitable soil conditions. In the northeastern United States, filberts (Hazelnuts) bloom in the early spring. Their catkins start to develop in the first warm days. If the bloom is followed by some frigid nights, the flowers die and there will be no nuts.
In 1871 Felix Gillet, a French barber who established a plant nursery in California, introduced the cultivated varieties of filberts (Hazelnuts) to the West Coast of the United States. He accurately foresaw that filberts (Hazelnuts) would thrive in the maritime coastal valleys of Oregon and the neighboring state of Washington. Oregon produces about 97% of the United States tonnage, while the remaining 3% comes from Washington.
How are filberts (Hazelnuts) cultivated in the United States?
In the United States 85% of the filbert production comes from a single cultivar, Barcelona, while 5% comes from its pollenizer, Daviana. Recently Barcelona has been replaced by a superior cultivar named Ennis, while Daviana has been replaced by an exceptional pollenizer named Butler.
The recommended spacing for filbert orchards vary, ranging from 15 feet by 15 feet to 20 feet by 10 feet. Every sixth tree in every third row is a pollenizer. This provides uniform pollination in a ratio of one pollenizer to 17 main crop trees. It is not necessary to introduce bees to the orchard, because filberts (Hazelnuts) are pollenized by the wind. Under favorable conditions, the filbert orchard can be productive for 50 or 60 years, after an initiation period of five years. A good harvest is considered two thousands pounds of dry in-shell filberts (Hazelnuts) per acre. If there is a heavy crop one year it is usually followed by a light crop the next year.
The normal growing pattern of the European filbert is to produce suckers, so that it becomes a multi-stemmed shrub. In the United States the season-long production of suckers would be a nuisance; consequently American growers train their filbert trees to a single trunk. In 1928, the U.S. Department of Agriculture started researching nuts in a laboratory especially set up for this purpose in the Pacific Northwest.
Another change has recently been introduced into filbert orchards. The former methods of tilling the soil by tools has been replaced with new methods of soil management, involving chemical herbicides in the row and mechanical weed control in the aisles. This results in a firmer harvest surface than that obtained by harrowing the ground.
In Oregon, the harvest begins towards the end of September, or in early October. With good weather and modern harvesting equipment, an experienced crew of five workers can harvest about two hundred acres in 10 days. Mechanical sweepers gather the nuts, which are then picked up in bins. The nuts are taken to be washed, cleaned and dried to about 8% moisture content. Then the filberts (Hazelnuts) are sold to consumers in the shell, or to bakers and salters in shelled form.
filberts (Hazelnuts) grown in Oregon and Washington are larger than those produced in Europe. There is a growing export demand for these ?giants? and ?jumbos?. In the past the greatest demand was for the smaller sizes. Since the U.S. imports about 45% of the filberts (Hazelnuts) that it consumes annually, there is room for expansion, and a bright future is in store for the Oregon and Washington filbert industries.
How did filbert production develop in Turkey?
In the mid 1800?s Turkey began making serious efforts to increase its production and export of filberts (Hazelnuts). A Turkish company, formed in 1879, engaged in a thriving export business for several years. However, as a result of military conflict with Crete, several large nut shipments were lost at sea in 1903, and the firm went bankrupt.
Although Turkey has had to contend with endless wars, economic depressions and violent government changes, it has managed to gradually increase its filbert production and export. Thus, Turkey is the world?s leading filbert producer, despite its primitive agricultural techniques.
How does filbert cultivation in Turkey differ from that in the United States?
The main difference lies in the machine-oriented methods employed in the U.S., as opposed to the manual labor practiced in Turkey.
Also, in the United States, filbert trees are planted in straight rows, and each tree is trained to grow with a single trunk to permit mechanical cultivation. In Turkey, filberts (Hazelnuts) grow on multi-trunked shrubs, set in rocky, steep hillsides, in clumps of four or five bushes in a five-foot circle. The bushes are often the result of chance seedlings taking root. Each bush has several stems about 12 to 16 feet high. The stems are permitted to grow for about thirty years or so, then they are removed to make way for younger stems. There are no regular filbert orchards in Turkey. Bushes are planted unevenly and haphazardly in the steep, stony terrain to avoid crags, boulders and other obstacles. Goats are frequently grazed among the filbert bushes to control weeds. The Turkish peasant generally allows nature to take its course, and uses hand tools and manual labor for tilling.
In the United States most filberts (Hazelnuts) are harvested following their natural drop to the ground. The filbert industry is mechanized from start to finish, from the time the hole is dug to plant the young tree, to the point when the nuts are machine-harvested from the ground. Because the filbert seedlings do not grow true to type, and the filbert is difficult to graft, a procedure called ?layerage? is used in Oregon. Year old stems of the desired filbert cultivar are bent into the soil and out again so that the tip is above ground and the U-shaped portion under ground. During the growing season roots are formed on the underground part of the stem. The new layered tree is severed from the parent tree in November and dug in December. Layerage is a slow method of propagation, but it produces a well-rooted tree large enough for orchard planting.
In Turkey the filberts (Hazelnuts) are hand-picked off the bushes by women, old men, girls and boys, with baskets hanging from their sides. And yet, despite its primitive methods, Turkey has managed to increase its recent domination of world filbert production, as is apparent from the following statistics.
Consider that 2,200 pounds equals one metric ton. In 1966, Turkey produced 190,000 tons while about 11,100 tons came from the United States. In 1979, when the total world production of filberts (Hazelnuts) was 410,00 metric tons, 290,000 tons came from Turkey, while only 11,800 tons were produced in the United States. How did Turkey manage to increase it filbert production so dramatically? Mostly by devoting more acreage to growing filberts (Hazelnuts). It is estimated that in Turkey there are roughly two hundred and forty filbert bushes per acre, compared with one hundred and eight filbert trees per acre in Washington and Oregon. It is difficult to calculate the precise acreage devoted to filberts (Hazelnuts) in Turkey, as there are no real statistics available. Nevertheless, we can safely assume from the information we do have, that almost 600,000 acres of filberts (Hazelnuts) are planted in Turkey, while in the United States just 24,000 acres are devoted to filberts (Hazelnuts) (in Washington and Oregon). In fact, the United States actually imports about 4,000 tons of filberts (Hazelnuts) from Turkey each year.
How are filberts (Hazelnuts) processed in Turkey?
After the filberts (Hazelnuts) have been picked in the husk on the Turkish hillsides, they are transported to central locations to be dried in the sun. Sometimes they are dried in heated buildings. Then the husks are removed, either manually, by beating them lightly with thin rods or slender shoots taken from the filbert bushes, or by husking machines. Shells are cracked between revolving millstones or similar equipment. Blowers remove the shells. The kernels are screened, graded by size, sorted and bagged for export.
The nuts are classified according to the region where they were collected. Round nuts are preferred in shelling, since they are less prone to damage during cracking than pointed ones. Europeans prefer shelled filberts (Hazelnuts) over unshelled; about 80% of Turkish filberts (Hazelnuts) are sold in shelled form for use in the manufacture of candy and baked goods.
Hardly anything goes to waste in the Turkish filbert industry. Broken but edible nuts are used in the extraction of edible filbert oil. Rancid and inferior nuts are made into industrial grade filbert oil. The combustible trash from the bushes, husks and shells is used for fuel.
How are filberts (Hazelnuts) grown in Italy?
In Italy, too, most filberts (Hazelnuts) grow near the sea. In this case, it is the Mediterranean. The industry is located mainly in Campania and Sicily, though there are also filbert plantings in the north, as well as in locations near Rome.
In Italy the filbert bushes are planted at more regular intervals than in Turkey, though they frequently also consist of several stalks planted in a clump. Perhaps it is due to the warmer climate that Italian yields are higher than Turkish yields. Possibly, the higher yields may be attributed to greater use of fertilizers and more fertile soil. During filbert harvesting in Italy, the bushes are beaten with canes and the nuts picked off the ground.
Many of the Italian orchards are farmed by tenants, in the absence of their landowners, who may be urban professionals or business people. These tenant-farmers give two-thirds of the crop to the owner, and keep one third for themselves.
In the past, Italy has produced about 80,000 tons of filberts (Hazelnuts) annually. This amounts to one-fifth of the total world production. Italy exports filberts (Hazelnuts) to Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
How are filberts (Hazelnuts) grown in Spain?
In Spain most filberts (Hazelnuts) are produced in the low-lying plains of the northeastern province of Tarragona. Some filberts (Hazelnuts) are grown on the moist hillsides of Barcelona and Oviedo.
The Spanish filbert orchards in Tarragona are usually planted in regular rows, fifteen to twenty-five feet apart, with only one bushy shoot per location, instead of in clumps as in Turkey and Italy. In other parts of Spain, however, clump planting is still common. Filbert plantings are routinely irrigated in Tarragona, as well as in other Spanish areas where the soil is poor and rocky.
Spain is the third largest producer of filberts (Hazelnuts); its produces about 20,000 tons annually. Most of its filberts (Hazelnuts) are exported to France and Switzerland. filberts (Hazelnuts) are used in Spain itself in the nougat and candy industry.
An interesting note: in traditional Spanish herbal medicine filberts (Hazelnuts) are recommended as a cure for enuresis (bedwetting). The patient is simply required to eat twelve filbert nuts just before retiring for the night.
What is the recommended method for storing and enjoying filberts (Hazelnuts)?
filberts (Hazelnuts) taste best when they are slightly toasted. The skin is thin, and not at all bitter. In fact, some people prefer using the filbert nut together with its skin.
However, if you wish to remove the skins, you can spread filberts (Hazelnuts) in a shallow pan and toast them in a 275°F oven for about twenty minutes, or until the skins crack. Then, while the nuts are still warm, rub them between your hands until the skins come off.
filberts (Hazelnuts) can be ground, chopped and sliced, according to preference. They should be stored in properly sealed plastic bags or glass jars for optimum flavor. Under these conditions they can keep for about one year at room temperature, or two years if refrigerated or frozen. They should, however, be brought to room temperature in a well ventilated area so as to prevent the drawing of moisture, which would cause mold and rancidity.
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