Hazelnuts are an easy nut to grow in your own garden. The nuts fall off the trees in late summer when their green papery husks turn brown. Harvest fallen nuts, rub the husks off and hang the nuts in mesh bags in their hard shells somewhere dry and airy for around 3 months to dry out. Shell them as you need them as they store best in the shell.
Hazelnuts are best planted in pairs for pollination. They have long flowers in late winter that blow pollen between trees on the wind. Whiteheart and Alexandra is a popular combination to plant for pollination.
Hazelnuts can be pruned to a single trunk, vase-shaped tree however trees will produce suckers each year which will need to be removed. If you let the suckers grow your hazelnut will form a thicket of multiple trunks. This makes harvesting the nuts harder but the upside is you can practice the ancient art of coppicing and get a second crop of wonderful hazel stakes for use around your garden and for making hazel hurdle panels.
Hazelnuts are also high in a lot of things that are good for us, good fats, magnesium, vitamin E and the B vitamins. Unlike a lot of the things that are good for you, hazelnuts are actually pretty yummy. Even yummier when you turn them into this stunning dukkah which is one of my store cupboard standbys.
200 grams of shelled hazelnuts
180 grams of sesame seeds
4 tablespoons of cumin seeds
4 tablespoons of coriander seeds
2 teaspoons of sea salt
4 teaspoons of ground black pepper (this adds a nice heat – you can halve it if you prefer)
Toast the hazelnuts on a shallow baking tray in a 180C oven until the skins start flaking and they smell toasty. Wrap the nuts in clean paper towels and rub them vigorously to get as much of the skin off them as you can. Chop them into small chunks in a blender.
In a heavy bottomed frying pan toast the sesame seeds until they change colour and add them to the hazelnuts. Toast the coriander seeds next and then the cumin seeds and roughly crush both of these in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and then add to the hazelnuts. Mix all together with the salt and pepper.
Let the dukkah cool and then store in glass jars with a screw tight lid. This will store well on a cool dark shelf for quite a few months.
Serve with bowls of extra virgin olive oil, good fresh bread and little dishes of dukkah to dunk the oily bread in. It also makes an exceptional coating for little fingers of firm fish or slices of chicken breast dipped in egg, rolled in Dukkah and baked. I also like to sprinkle it on top of salads to add a bit of bulk and onto quiches before they go into the oven.