(Species: Corylus avellana (cobnut) and Corylus maxima (filbert) - Family: Betulaceae)
Hazelnut and its origins
The hazelnut is a small deciduous shrub or fruit tree that is native to temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere. It is widely common in both European hedgerow and in woodland. In spring, it is easily recognised by the long, fuzzy yellow male catkins, up to 12cm long that pollinate the female catkins using the wind.
The ancient Britons as well as the Romans grew hazelnuts as coppice, as well as for the nut. Cultivars of the hazelnut tree have been grown since the 16th century. The most famous of these, the Kentish Cob, was introduced in 1830.
With their late-winter catkins and russet autumn foliage, hazelnut trees are highly decorative trees. Usefully, their height and spread can be easily controlled by hard pruning and the prunings can then be used as plant supports in the garden.
The nuts are produced in spring and grow in clusters of two or more on the numerous leafy stems. They are ready to harvest in late summer.
Both species of hazelnuts, cobnut and filbert, produce nuts. Cobnuts have short outer husks, leaving part of the hazelnut exposed, and filberts have a longer, thinner, tubular husk that can cover the nut completely. Gustav's Zeller is a robust, upright variety of cobnut with small, sweet nuts that appear early in the season; the Kentish Cob is actually a filbert that grows reliably and produces nuts with an excellent flavour. Filbert Corylus Purpurea is an outstanding ornamental fruit tree, with foliage, flowers and hazelnuts that are all a deep shade of reddish purple.
How to plant Hazelnut
Choose a hazelnut specimen that has been hard pruned to encourage multiple stems near the base. If this is not possible, prune the plant hard yourself.
Plant this fruit tree in winter. Unlike most fruit or nut trees, it will tolerate shade, though it will produce more hazelnuts if it is sited in full sun. The tree produces both male and female catkins very early in the year so should be in a sheltered site and not in a frost pocket, or nut production will be adversely affected.
The hazelnut tree will tolerate most soils, provided they are well-drained. Before planting, mix plenty of organic matter into the soil.
While the tree is getting established, water frequently and apply thick mulch in spring. Feed with a XXXXX general fertiliser in early spring to boost nut yields.
Prune in late winter when the fruit tree is flowering to help the pollination process between male and female catkins, cutting back old stems to encourage new growth.
Harvest hazelnuts when the husks start to yellow, in late summer. Lay them out in a dry, sunny spot for a fortnight until the husks turn brown, then store until needed.
Propagation of Hazelnuts
Increase your stock of hazelnut trees by layering them in autumn. Choose a young, supple branch that can bend to touch the soil midway on its stem. Prepare the ground beneath so that it is free from lumps. Secure the branch by pegging it to the ground.
Keep the soil moist and mulch the surface. Check for roots after 15 months and if it is well-rooted, cut the stem on the side by the parent plant. Lift out the new rooted plant and either pot up in a container to continue to grow or plant out the new hazelnut tree directly into the garden.
Did you know?
Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts and accounts for approximately 75% of worldwide production.