Some years the hedgerows around us are groaning with clusters of tempting green hazelnuts. Last time we left it too late - in our part of Wales it is the nuthatches who get them first. They peck out round holes to get at the immature nuts, and then drop the shells their favourite places to wedge the nut and drill out the hole: here it is an old oak tree that provides lots of small crevices for them to use. The first year we were here I was mystified by finding hundreds of hazel shells beneath it, and by the sound of lofs of tiny beaks tap-tapping all day high in the tree – we thought at first we had rather a lot of gentle woodpeckers or very loud death watch beetle!
So I have been scanning the internet for ideas about how to enjoy some of the harvest before it disappears – using them green.
Information is patchy but they seem to be usable green if you can get them just right. A bit like peas that have been left a mite too long on the plant. Could be great in warm salads involving bacon and sausage, according to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. I suspect that stir-fries would be a good use too.
Here are 2 other ideas for treats you could try:
Known as Frangelico in Italy and liquer de noisette in France
Yield: 1 pint
6 oz Hazelnuts, 1 Vanilla bean, (1 inch), 1 tsp Allspice, 1 1/2 cup Vodka, 1/3 cup of sugar syrup.
Chop the hazelnuts to release the flavor of the nut and add to vodka, vanilla bean, and allspice. Age for 2 weeks, shaking lightly occasionally. Strain and filter until clear. Add sugar syrup, if desired, and age for an additional 3 weeks. Ready to serve.
Makes a nice gift and is good over ice cream as well as an aperitif. If flavor is too weak, add more nuts and re-steep a week before adding the sugar syrup.
There is also a tradition in the Middle East of preserving green almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts in sugar syrup as a delicacy. Use when small and the shells are soft - anytime from late July when they are still baby sized and before the squirrels and nuthatches get them all. That way you should get he benefit of the shell as well as the kernel.
More research and testing is obviously needed on the hazelnut question – please let us have your ideas and experiences.