Foraging for Hazelnuts

Despite being very common in Britain,  it can be a real task to forage yourself some hazelnuts. The problem with these delicious nuts is the squirrels almost always manage to get to them first.

The plant is found almost everywhere, the most convenient place to forage them is late summer/early autumn on the roadside, as there seem to be fewer squirrels around the traffic but they may be contaminated by exhaust fumes and other nasties, so I always try to venture a little further into the woods to find the best specimens.

They are easily identified by there furry, slightly pointed but large round leaves. They grow at shrub or small tree height and the nuts are usually in clusters of 3 or 4 but sometimes just one or two on a stem. They are easily collected once found as the bush is at usually at shoulder height and free from spikes or thorns. The nuts themselves will be green to start with but will gradually turn a brown colour and this is when they are best collected.

One of my favourite places to camp during late summer is a lovely hillside picnic area in Betws Y Coed. I often spend the odd night camping here and routinely check around the hazel bushes for ripe nuts. It's very hard to catch them at just the right time before the squirrel's feast but no trip is wasted as it's a beautiful scenic location to spend the night with an added bonus if you can lightly toast your harvest in a frying pan over high heat with some sugar to replenish your energy level.

The first year I collected hazelnuts was a huge disappointment, as I got home and almost every nut was empty or 'blank' but in other years I have managed to collected kilos of them in just a few short hours. Sadly, the viability if the nut is impossible to tell until cracked open - but don't let this put you off!

The wild hazelnut can be used in any number of recipes as any shop bought nut is used but one of my own favourites is probably preserved in a nut brittle be given away as Christmas gifts.


Popular Posts