Oregon has the ideal climate for growing superior hazelnuts: a unique blend of ocean, mountain and river climates unite warm and cold, sun and rain. With some of the richest, most fertile soil in the world, Oregon is prime hazelnut country.
Oregon's Willamette Valley is home to 99 percent of the U.S. hazelnut industry.
The Hazelnut was made Oregon's official State Nut in 1989.
About 650 farm families grow hazelnuts on 28,400 acres.
Hazelnut trees can produce until over 80 years of age, and many Oregon growers are third and fourth generation orchardists.
The hazelnut is unique in that it blooms and pollinates in the middle of winter. Wind carries the pollen from yellow catkins to a tiny red flower, where it stays dormant until June, when the nut begins to form.
The nuts mature during the summer months, turning from green to shades of hazel nestled in a protective husk, and are harvested in late September or October after they have fallen to the ground.
Nuts are mechanically swept into windrows and picked up by harvesters that separate the nuts from twigs and other debris. They are put in tote bins for transport to a facility that cleans, dries, and sells them in the shell or cracks them for kernel use.
Ancient Hazelnut History
According to a manuscript found in China from the year 2838 B.C., the hazelnut (also called a filbert) took its place among the five sacred nourishments God bestowed to human beings. We can assume from this that the cultivation of hazelnuts has been going on for over 4,500 years.
In ancient times, the hazelnut was used as a medicine and tonic. In 200 A.D., the Greek physician Dioscorides emphasized the properties of the hazelnut as a medium to cure colds and grow hair.
It is speculated by some that the name filbert originated from "full beard," referring to the fact that the husk (or "beard") entirely covers the nut in some varieties. Others believe the name was derived from St. Philibert, as August 22 (a date that corresponds in England to the ripening of the earliest filberts) is dedicated to him.
Local Hazelnut History
1858 First cultured hazelnut tree planted in Oregon by retired Hudson's Bay Company employee, Sam Strictland in Scottsburg.
1876 First significant planting by David Gernot: 50 trees planted along a fence row (as was customary in the Old Country) in the Willamette Valley.
1885 Barcelona variety (most prominent variety grown today) developed by Felix Gillet, who emigrated from France in 1952.
1886 George Steel buys 165 second-generation seedlings from Gillet, and plants them in Portland.
1905 George Dorris of Springfield begins the first commercial orchard with over 200 Barcelona trees.
1905-06 Homer Kruse of Wilsonville, Percy Giese of Gresham, NE Britt of Newberg, Thomas Prince of Dundee and John Forbis of Dilley, purchase nursery stock from Gillet, and are considered pioneers in filbert growing. By the end of WWI planting begins in earnest.
1930 300 tons harvested
1950 5,350 tons harvested
1970 8,750 tons harvested
1990 21,700 tons harvested
1997 49,000 ton harvested, an all-time record crop
2004 37,500 tons harvested
The hazelnut industry farm gate (the total value growers received for their crops) has averaged $30,000,000 during the last five years. Using a conservative multiplier, this translates into a total economic impact of $75 million in Oregon.
Over half of Oregon's production is exported to countries throughout the world, with the primary markets being China and Germany.
As a part of the tree nut group, hazelnuts received the first qualified health claim for a food for their positive role in heart health.
A low-carb food item can be achieved by replacing a portion of flour with hazelnut flour.
About 80 percent of the fat in hazelnuts is mono-unsaturated and thus heart healthy.
Hazelnuts are a source of numerous phytochemicals, and the antioxidant vitamin E both, which promote health and prevent chronic disease.
Hazelnuts are a source of folic acid, which decreases the risk of birth defects and heart disease.
Studies show that including nuts in a weight loss regime will result in greater weight reduction over a longer period of time.
Hazelnuts are available in a variety of forms from in-shell to kernels to further processed diced, sliced, butter and paste.
Hazelnuts can be added to a wide array of dishes from cereals and breads to soups, salads, yogurts and main dishes to confections, ice creams and pastries.
The hazelnut's unique flavor complements, but does not overpower, the flavor of foods with which they are combined.
Because hazelnuts must meet Oregon's strict quality standards, Oregon Hazelnuts are the benchmark for hazelnuts around the world.