Where Do Hazelnuts Grow In Europe? A Comprehensive Guide

Hazelnuts have been a beloved food source in Europe for thousands of years, with a rich history and cultural significance.

These small, round nuts are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients and healthy fats. But where exactly do hazelnuts grow in Europe?

In this article, we’ll explore the origins and distribution of hazelnuts, from their ancient roots to modern-day production.

Join us on a journey through the forests and orchards of Europe to discover the secrets of this beloved nut.

Where Do Hazelnuts Grow In Europe

Hazelnuts, also known as filberts, are native to Europe and have been an important food source since the Mesolithic era. They grow as a bush or small tree in moderate temperature zones throughout the northern hemisphere.

In Europe, hazelnuts are primarily grown in sub-alpine areas of Germany and in countries around the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy and Turkey. The Italian region of Avellana is particularly well-known for its hazelnut cultivation.

The European hazelnut, also known as the European filbert (Corylus avellana), is the most commonly grown variety in Europe. However, it is not very cold-hardy and must be grown in southern countries.

Hazelnuts have a rich cultural history in Europe and have been used for everything from food to medicine to protection against snakes and witches. They are also traditional symbols of life, fertility, and immortality.

The Origins Of Hazelnuts In Europe

The hazelnut is one of the few nuts that are originally from Europe. Hazelnuts have been an important food source throughout Europe since the Mesolithic era, which dates back to 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. The hazelnut became the main forest tree right after the last ice age, eventually being succeeded by the beech forest. They grow as a bush or small tree in moderate temperature zones in the entire northern hemisphere.

The European hazelnut (Corylus avellana) is the most commonly grown variety in Europe. It is believed to have originated in Italy, specifically in the region of Avellana, where it has been cultivated for centuries. The scientific name for the hazelnut, Corylus avellana, can be traced back to its origins in Avellana.

Even in the Stone Age, hazelnut bushes were common in the mixed oak forests that were widespread at the time. In those days, too, the hazelnut was an important source of nutrition. The hazelnut grows wild throughout Europe to this day. It is widely grown in Mediterranean countries and in Anatolia. The most important countries of production are Turkey and Italy.

The secret to the historical success of the European hazel was that it was one of the first temperate shrubs to colonize the land after the retreat of the ice sheets. In Ireland, hazels established themselves about 10,000 years ago. Judging from pollen samples, they probably reached their peak spread about 8,000 years ago. After that, the arrival of broadleaf forest (oak and elm) would have overshadowed the low-growing hazels, forcing them to more peripheral habitat.

To get an idea of how prolific the European hazel can be, a sample hazel about 4 meters tall was surveyed by archeologists Anne M.G. McComb and Derek Simpson in County Down. This particular plant was in a hazel coppice, meaning it had been harvested for a long time. In late August, they counted 950 hazelnuts on the plant and another 20 unopened nuts on the ground. The majority of nuts fell in the first week of October, when 580 were retrieved from the ground.

Hazelnuts have been an important food source throughout Europe for thousands of years and continue to be widely grown and consumed today. They are loved for their sweet, round taste and their crunchy core in a reddish-brown exterior.

Hazelnut Distribution Across Europe

Hazelnut distribution across Europe is primarily concentrated in the southern regions, particularly around the Mediterranean Sea. Italy and Turkey are the largest producers of hazelnuts in the world, with the Italian region of Avellana being particularly well-known for its hazelnut cultivation. Germany also has a significant hazelnut production in sub-alpine areas.

The European hazelnut (Corylus avellana) is the most commonly grown variety in Europe, and it is not very cold-hardy, which limits its distribution to southern countries. However, there are other varieties of hazelnuts that are grown in colder climates, such as the American hazelnut (Corylus americana) and the beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta).

Hazelnuts have a long and fascinating history in Europe, and they have been an important food source since prehistoric times. They have also been used for medicinal purposes and as symbols of life, fertility, and immortality. Today, hazelnuts are widely used in various food and beverage products, as well as in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals due to their numerous health benefits.

Hazelnut Production In Italy

Italy is the second largest producer of hazelnuts in the world, after Turkey. The regions of Lazio, Campania, Sicily, and especially Piedmont are known for their hazelnut cultivation. In fact, Piedmont grows the most hazelnuts in Italy.

Big companies and investors have been fueling the shift towards monoculture in hazelnut production in Italy. The Ferrero Group, which makes Nutella, is one of the biggest consumers of hazelnuts produced in Tuscia. In 2018, the company launched its Progetto Nocciola Italia plan which aims to increase hazelnut plantations across Italy by 20,000 hectares by 2026. In Lazio, the company is working with local producers through a farming association to develop 500 hectares for the crop over a five-year period.

According to Ferrero’s figures, 17,708 hectares are currently devoted to hazelnut cultivation in Viterbo, and 80,000 across Italy. However, this shift towards monoculture has been met with opposition from environmentalists who fear that the use of pesticides and fertilizers will drain into nearby water sources such as Lake Bolsena. Despite this opposition, Ferrero argues that hazelnut cultivation around Lake Bolsena is “marginal” and that other crops such as olives, grapes, and apples require even more chemicals.

Small family-run productions like Cascina Barroero in Piedmont offer a more sustainable and traditional approach to hazelnut production in Italy. The hazelnut has a rich cultural history in Europe and continues to be an important crop for both large corporations and small businesses alike.

Turkey: The Largest Producer Of Hazelnuts In The World

When it comes to hazelnut production, Turkey takes the lead as the largest producer in the world. According to official Agriculture and Forestry Ministry data, Turkey produces around 70% of the world’s hazelnuts. The hazelnut plantations are mainly located in the Black Sea region between Trabzon and Kocaeli, with most hazelnuts grown in the provinces of Ordu, Samsun, and Giresun. In 2021/22, Turkey is expected to increase its production to 790,000 mt – a good 23% more than in the previous season.

Hazelnuts have been cultivated in Turkey for centuries, with accounts dating back to 1500 BC. The Turkish historian Evliya Çelebi described hazelnut orchards in the 1650s during the Ottoman Empire. Today, Turkey is not only the largest producer of hazelnuts but also cherries, figs, apricots, quinces, and poppies. In 2020, Turkey’s agricultural income rose 20% on a yearly basis to reach 333.3 billion Turkish liras (some $47.5 billion), making it the largest agricultural income earner in the EU for the last decade and among the top countries in the world.

Despite uncertainties about hazelnut prices due to the devaluation of the Turkish lira and uncertainties about state organization TMO’s actions, exports are going well. In 2021, Turkey already shipped a record quantity of hazelnuts overseas, and estimates for 2022 are also positive. The International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC) expects that more than 340,000 mt of hazelnut kernels could be shipped overseas. However, sub-zero temperatures in recent weeks may have led to crop damage, so no precise forecasts can yet be given for the new crop.

The Role Of Hazelnuts In European Cuisine

Hazelnuts have played a significant role in European cuisine for centuries. In the Middle Ages, almonds were considered a luxury food reserved for the wealthy, while hazelnuts were more commonly consumed by peasants. However, today, hazelnuts are just as highly regarded as almonds.

Hazelnuts are used in a variety of European dishes, including cakes, tortes, and muesli. In Austrian cuisine, hazelnut paste is a key ingredient in making Viennese hazelnut torte. In French cuisine, hazelnut meringue is used in dacquoise, a popular dessert cake. Hazelnuts are also commonly used in Turkish and Georgian cuisine, often paired with walnuts in dishes like churchkhela and satsivi sauce.

In addition to being used in traditional dishes, hazelnuts are also frequently found in modern industrialized foods. Popular candies like Nutella, Ferrero Küsschen, and Mozart Kugeln all contain hazelnuts. Hazelnut oil and flour are also used in baking and cooking.

Health Benefits Of Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are a true superfood, packed with nutrients that offer numerous health benefits. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, manganese, and copper, which are powerful antioxidants that help to prevent major diseases like cancer and heart disease. Hazelnuts also contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), a class of polyphenols that have been shown to have significantly higher levels of antioxidant activity compared to other antioxidants like vitamin C and E.

Consuming hazelnuts regularly can also help to fight aging and disease by reducing inflammation in the body. Hazelnuts are an excellent source of folate, which is essential for preventing megaloblastic anemia and neural tube defects in newborns. They are also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that help to decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels in the blood, contributing to a healthy blood lipid profile.

In addition, hazelnuts are packed with dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that promote overall health and protect against various diseases and cancers. They contain flavonoids, which improve circulation and protect the health of the brain and cognitive functions. Hazelnut oil has excellent astringent properties that help to keep the skin well-protected from dryness, making it a popular ingredient in traditional medicines, massage therapy, aromatherapy, and the cosmetic industry.

To get the most out of hazelnuts, it is recommended to consume them with their skins present as they contain the highest concentration of antioxidants. Hazelnuts are a delicious and versatile food that can be eaten on their own as a snack or added to various recipes like salads, baked goods, and desserts.

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