This small nut with a dark brown shell is the fruit of the hazel tree. Like the almond and walnut, the hazelnut are classified as an oleaginous fruit because of its high oil content. Beside being eaten whole or chopped, salted or plain, hazelnuts produce a very fragrant oil.
The ideal months for fresh hazelnuts are August, September, and October. The hazelnuts should be in their green casing, and they shouldn’t make any noise when shaken. This means that fruit is solid. Dried hazelnuts are found throughout the year, with or without their shell. If they are in their shell, this should be smooth, shiny, and free of holes and cracks.
The hazelnut shell is inedible and should be removed with a nutcracker. The hazelnuts can then be peeled, which means removing their brown skin. This can be done by putting the hazelnuts in a cool oven (100 to 140°C) for a few minutes, and then rubbing them.
Hazelnuts can be eaten as they are. They can also be toasted and salted as an appetizer. When chopped, their crispy texture can be used to enliven a salad or red or white meat dish. They can also be added to cakes, tarts, and even bread. Hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts) can be an interesting ingredient in desserts. Finally, hazelnut oil is perfectly suitable for making vinaigrette.
Fresh hazelnuts can be stored for only a short time, because they are quite delicate. Dried hazelnuts in their shell can be stored in a dry place away from heat and light, where they will keep for several weeks. Store shelled hazelnuts in an airtight container.
Like all oleaginous fruit, hazelnuts have high amounts of fat and protein. They also contain vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Hazelnuts are high in calories but very nutritious.
The “Noisette de Cervione-Nuciola di Cervioni” is grown in the Upper Corsica region. It was awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in May 2014. Outside France, the “Tonda Gentile delle Langhe” variety of Piedmont hazelnuts enjoy a very good reputation. They are particularly used in pastry making. They have held PGI status since 1993. The quality of Reus hazelnuts from Catalonia in Spain is guaranteed by its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.