Nature table: Hazel nut

This autumn’s crop of hazel nuts is the best in years, possibly in decades.

This is true of both wild nuts and cultivated varieties.

This is probably because of optimal conditions last spring, when the little red flowers were being pollinated from the catkins. Despite traditional lore, it doesn’t indicate a hard winter to come.

Early October is the time to harvest them and if they’re not fully ripe they should be brought into a warm kitchen for a few days, and then removed to a cooler place, free from mice, where they will keep until Christmas. As well as being delicious, hazel nuts are an extremely healthy food, packed with vitamins, minerals and unsaturated oils, and are free of gluten.

100 grams of nuts contains 628 calories. They were an important part of the diet of our prehistoric ancestors and archaeological evidence suggests they roasted the kernels over hot stones and stored them for the winter.

Dry-roasted nuts may have a longer pedigree than any other snack.


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