Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hazelnut

From La Belgique Horticole, 1850s.


Hazelnuts have been part of the human diet for 9,000 years. A large pit with thousands of hazelnut hulls was found in Scotland, radiocarbon dated to about 7,000 BCE. This was on the east coast of the small Hebridean island of Colonsay at Staosnaig. At that time, hazenuts were important in the diet, along with acorns and nettles (Archeology.about.com) Also "Based on the abundance of hazelnut shells found at Mesolithic sites in southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany it was proposed that these remains may testify to an important food supply rather than just the use as a supplement to animal protein."

After the last ice age, hazelnuts spread from Northern Turkey (Pontus to the Greeks) to other areas of Europe.
"The caduceus of Greek mythology and Hermes fame was made of hazel.... when Apollo was only a few hours old he escaped from his cradle and went out in search of adventure...stole two oxen from Apollo (the god of the sun) and hid them in a cave where he killed and eat them. When Apollo discovered what had happened, Hermes played to him on a lyre... Apollo was so charmed by his music he allowed him to go unpunished. In gratitude Hermes gave his lyre to Apollo, who in return gave him a magical Caduceus made of Hazel, said to bestowed wisdom, wealth and prosperity on its owner by turning everything it touched into gold."from Plant Folklore, on Helium.com.

The ancient Greeks referred to hazelnuts as "karyon Pontin" for their plentiful availability in the mountains of Pontus.

Romans are known to have cultivated Hazelnuts, including in Britain.

(By Redoute, botanical illustrator for Marie Antionette)


The world's top producer of Hazelnuts is Turkey. In the US, the top producer is Oregon, followed by Washington.
Beehives in hazelnut grove, Ordu Turkey.  I think Hazelnuts are wind pollinated, however, because they bloom in winter.


From wikipedia.

 In mythology, hazel wood is used for dowsing (finding water). Quoting from the blog Grannulus Grove, "The Celts believed hazelnuts gave one wisdom and inspiration. The Gaelic word for nuts are 'cno' pronounced 'knaw' and the word for wisdom, 'cnocach'...if a Hazel tree was unjustly cut down then the punishment was death." Glad I didn't cut down the hazel trees in my Vancouver yard, opting instead to move them to Battleground. Whew. From the same source, "Hazel trees were so abundant in Scotland that it was named Caledonia which was derived from Cal-Dun, meaning 'Hill of Hazel. In Norse mythology, the Hazel was known as the Tree of Knowledge and was sacred to the god Thor."

Hazelnut trees live about 50 years, but regenerate from the roots. So the large bush that results may have trunk or root hundreds of years old.  This regenerative ability may be why the small trees that I moved seemed to split into 2 or 3 trees.

From The Guide to Nut Cookery, 1898, by Almeda Lambert. " varieties which have long, fringed husks extending beyond the nut, are filberts; ...those whose husks are shorter than the nut, are hazels...derived from the Anglo-Saxon word haesel meaning a hood or bonnet."

Hazel Nut trees are more compact than most nut trees.  They tend to be bushy, so can be used for a hedge row.  Ultimate size about 10ft tall, 10ft across.... Hazelnuts spread by underground runners that develop roots. These runners can be cut away from the main plant using a sharp digging spade and planted in a new location. Also here.

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