Friday, September 08, 2006
And in this the Lord showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand. . .In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it.
Julian of Norwich
The plant of the day for Fructidor 21 is the hazelnut (or noisette in French).
Wikipedia has a good article on hazelnuts.
Here are a few things I learned from that article:
The hazel is a shrub, in the same family as the beeches (and it bears similar catkins). The genus name is Corylus and the species is avellana from the town of Avellino in Italy. Although people often confuse them, the filbert is a slightly different species, Corylus maxima.
It’s native to Europe and Asia and was often used in England for hedgerows. The wood is coppiced (cut down to the base to encourage new growth) and the new shoots were often used as material for woven fences and wattle-and-daub building construction. In North America, where the native hazel is Corylus Americana, the twigs were used to make baskets and as drumsticks (for the Chippewa and Ojibwa).
Hazelnuts are grown commercially in Europe, Turkey, China and Australia. In the United States, hazelnut production is concentrated in Oregon, particularly in the Willamette Valley, and in my own state of Washington (to my surprise).
Hazelnuts are used to make pralines, and combined with chocolate to make Nutella. There’s a hazelnut liqueur popular in Eastern Europe and hazelnut flavoring is one of the favorite additions to lattes. Toasted hazelnuts can be added to salads, or ground up and used as breading for fish or added to vegetable dishes. For many good hazelnut recipes to to the site of the Oregon Hazelnut Industry
Or the Hazelnut Council
You could celebrate the day of the hazelnut with a hazelnut meal, starting with a hazelnut squash soup, continuing on to a hazelnut-crusted halibut recipe served with Mediterranean roasted vegetables, and finishing up with a hazelnut gelato.
The Oregon Hazelnut Industry website provides instructions on roasting hazelnuts.
To slow roast hazelnuts in an oven, “spread shelled nuts in a shallow baking pan and roast at 275 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until the skins crack and the meat turns light golden. Hazelnuts may also be roasted at higher temperatures. At 350 degrees, they will roast in only eight to ten minutes, but watch them closely, as they can go from toasted to scorched in a very short time at this temperature. If using a microwave, roast nuts at full power for three to four minutes. To remove the skins, pour the hot nuts in the center of a rough kitchen terry towel. Pull the towel up around the nuts and twist tightly, making a hobo pack. Let stand to steam for about five minutes. Vigorously rub the warm nuts in the towel until most of the skins are removed.”
The hazel is a tree rich in folklore. In Celtic legend, it’s the tree of knowledge. The salmon in Connla’s well ate the nuts of a hazel tree that dropped into the water and thus became the wisest of all beings. The hazel is the ninth tree in the Old Irish tree alphabet and the symbol of the ninth month (Aug-Sept). [F&W] The Dinnschenchas calls the tree the “poet’s music-haunted hazel” and also mentions “the nine hazels of Crimnall the Sage,” which “stand by the power of magic spells.” [Hageneder]
Hazel twigs are often used as divining rods and are most efficacious if cut on St John’s Eve or Night. In Berlin, it must be cut by an innocent child of true faith and it will only have power for seven years. In Brandenburg, you must approach the tree in darkness, walking backwards, and cut the fork silently, while reaching between the legs. Divining rods were used until the 17th century for discovering thieves and murderers as well as treasure and water. To test a divining rod, hold it in water and it will squeal like a pig. [F&W]
The hazel is the tree of Thor in Norwegian mythology. It’s under the domain of Mercury in Roman myth.
Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, edited by Maria Leach, Harper and Row 1971
Hageneder, Fred, The Meaning of Trees, Chronicle 2005
Illustration of hazelnut from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany as found at: