OUR FRUIT - Hazelnut (corylus avellana)
The hazel tree is thought to be one of the rare species from the tertiary era (-70 million years) to have survived until today.
The hazel tree has always been a source of magical tales. It was used by druids for incantations. It is still used today by water diviners to look for the location of wells.
The hazel tree is a one of Eastern Corsica's typical crops, often found in the Morianincu Township, which is characterized by its high rainfall conducive to cultivation.
It is found by the sea, above the plain that is more dedicated to citrus fruits, in the scrubs and around the villages, already at an altitude of 300 m. These steep lots were landscaped into gardens and terraces surrounded by dry stone walls. One can still see the traces of canals that used to harness the numerous springs and brought the water to the beds for gravity irrigation.
Inaccessible to tractors, hazel tree gardens have remained protected from the intensification of farming. They grow in bushes (their natural state) and can reach 7 metres in height in this ideal ecosystem.
Most plantations we currently harvest date back to the 40's or 50's. The nut grove boasts open undergrowth vegetation, with chanterelles and other eatable mushrooms, wild cyclamens in bloom at harvest time.
Unfortunately, the massive development of imports, the selection of new high-yield species and the appearance of industrial orchards led to the progressive decline of the nut grove on the island, despite a recognized taste quality. Most plantations have now become impassable fallow land. They are a breeding ground for fires.
To fight against this catastrophic situation, Alimea has been promoting for more than 20 years the rehabilitation of hazel trees through organic farming. Every maintained plantation constitutes an even more effective firewall, while the maintenance of operations on the terraces ensures environmental monitoring.
Consequently, every wholesaler, store and consumer choosing Corsican hazelnuts contributes to fire prevention.
DO THE RIGHT THING! BUY CORSICAN HAZELNUTS!
Much to the pleasure of hazelnut fans, but also to preserve the natural habitat of Corsica.
The hazel tree grows naturally in bushes. The Corsican hazel tree still has that bushy appearance: the old plants are periodically renewed from the base through the conservation of shoots. In Corsica, the adult plants can reach up to 7 m in height.
The main variety is Fertile de Coutard, a large, round and delicious hazelnut. To ensure pollination it is accompanied by Ronde du Piémont and Longue d'Espagne, as well as hazel trees originating from spontaneous seedlings.
Alimea's hazelnut producers maintain old family orchards. The size of orchards rarely exceeds one hectare, but producers remain strongly attached to the hazel trees planted by their families.
The cultivation of hazel tree essentially consists in pruning the excess shoots in order to channel the strength of selected stems. The majority of producers let a few ewes or horses graze the land to naturally maintain the property and fertilize the soil. Clearing in the winter and in the weeks prior to harvest provide bramble and creeper control, which otherwise grow wild.
NATURE'S GIFT: the total absence of weevils (hazelnut worm) from the Corsican ecosystem. You won't find a worm-eaten hazelnut on our plantations!
Still, the hazelnut grove is not free from looters: jays, hooded crows, rodents and especially wild boars (sometimes trotting pigs) take their share. Once on the ground, the harvest of hazelnut becomes urgent.
The harvest of hazelnuts occurs in September. Hazelnuts fall to the ground at maturity with the help of wind and are picked from the ground. They are stored in attics and sheds before conditioning and shipping.
Naturally dried without heat and preserved whole, Corsican hazelnuts generously offer their aroma, which developed slowly in the sunny orchards facing the Mediterranean.
Hazelnuts are packed directly and sold unshelled.
We deliberately chose to concentrate on the sale of unshelled hazelnuts: The labour required for cracking and sorting incurs a major cost. Given the price of imported shelled hazelnuts, our high sales price limits our marketing possibilities… unless we drastically lower our prices and therefore the pay for hazelnut producers, which is not socially acceptable.
Tasting our hazelnuts requires time and patience! But the shell remains the best protection and will preserve all the taste and properties of the hazelnut.
The hazelnut has outstanding nutritional qualities.
- As a nut, its most known property is its high oil concentration (60%), with a high content in unsaturated fatty acids. It is highly energetic.
- It is also rich in vegetable protein: 10%.
- It is rich in fibres, vitamins and mineral salts.
Hazelnuts can be stored month after month… in their shells, which allows you to wait for next year's harvest.
a few storage tips :
- All dry fruits are better kept in shells, because the nut retains its integrity and remains protected from light and air, which are oxidation agents.
- They should be stored away from humidity and rodents in a cool and dry place.
The hazelnut is a simple and delicious fruit. It has its place in the kitchen as a dessert, in a fruit basket that should always contain dry fruit and a nut-cracker to nibble daily on a few dry fruits.
A few hazelnuts can also be shelled and soaked overnight. They will be fresh, crunchy and delicious the next morning at breakfast.
Hazelnuts are also used for cooking and baking, and in a spreadable paste.
See our recipes :