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April 14, 2012

Nutting Girl

As the walnuts and chestnuts begin to fall, I look back on the hazelnut harvest with wonder. The wonder is mainly because I have made an effort this year to gather them up, but they have been prolific, beginning to fall in late January and continuing until the end of March.

They are the fruit of four trees. When I left my job as a gardener with the Rangiora Borough Council, I was able to choose a few plants to take with me from the nursery, and I remember choosing some oaks and six unlabelled hazelnut bushes.  My father helped me plant them on a rise above the stream on the edge of his vegetable garden. Neither of us could have imagined that one day this hazel grove would complement a house planted on his garden.

Four plants have survived the years and each one produces a distinctively different nut.

The largest, which is probably the same as a Kentish cobnut has a high percentage of empty shells this year (time to dose it with molybdenum).  I'm not partial to the flavour of hazelnuts newly fallen, but these are truly delicious and sampling them, I can understand why the unseasoned ones are such a delicacy in England: they are milky and flavoursome with the texture of coconut.  But like so many truly delectable crop plants the quality of flavour is matched with inconveniences of processing: the empty shell ratio and the way the shaggy nut skin adheres to the shell when cracked open would turn commercial New Zealand growers away from them.

By comparison these nuts have poor flavour. If my trees were taken from cuttings as I suspect they were, they will have been selected for different qualities. If it weren't for the disappointing taste these little nuts would be ideal for confectionary, wrapped in chocolate.

The nuts above have a distinctive shape which I describe as heart-shaped. They also have a good flavour.

But these, with their standard shape and clean-skinned kernels, are non-descript in taste.
Still, I'm looking forward to using all of them over the winter, and have fond dreams of making flour-free, hazlenut macaroons and cakes. They'll probably get eaten by hand instead, and given away. 
But now, as I remember that Elwin's birthday is the time when the walnuts fall on our tin roof with reports like gunfire,  I'll leave you with Kitty's jig.

Her friend David taught her the Nutting Girl double jig in the Fieldtown tradition a few years ago, and they dance it together whenever David visits from Australia.

NB For the china fanciers amongst you, the saucers are a Staffordshire Royal Crown design marked 3444. Do please leave a comment if you know more about this design.


Cro Magnon said...

My late father planted a small hazel nut 'grove'. I seem to remember there were Spanish Cobs, Kentish Cobs, and Filbert's. I always remember going down with big white sheets (which were spread beneath the bushes), and shaking like crazy. Delicious. I've recently planted one myself.

Jeneane said...

Filberts that's another name or variety isn't it. It does seem to be an American term for hazelnuts generally. I haven't come across Spanish cobs. I really need a serious on-site tutorial to really understand all the variations. Have you thought about planting truffle-infected plants in your grove? Anyway may the trees bring you pleasure throughout the year.

Dyk Jewell said...

We called them filberts in Devon. There were a few trees bordering the lane where we lived and I remember getting the ripe nuts and trying to crack the shells using stones.

Does Kitty sing the words to Nutting Girl? It was Brian Robinson's jig (probably Bampton or is their a Bucknell version?) and he always sang. It should be required learning for all young girls to acquaint themselves with the evil ways of men!

Enjoy the nuts!

Claire said...

This is so lovely Jeneane and reminds me of going nutting as a child, when we kept the location of thebushes a top secret. And such beautiful china, it never ceases to astonish me how connected we are across the miles. Delicious indeed x

Jeneane said...

Dyk: Aha, Filberts in Devon. Thanks for that. Noooo, Kitty hasn't learnt the words yet, although David always sings them, in order to find the tune for the musicians. I first saw little Edward Wait doing it with his father as a Bampton jig (I think). I don't remember it being one of Bucknell's eleven dances.

Claire. I never forget how much we have in common. Whether there is a yard of canal, or half a world of oceans seperating us, you are part of the tapestry of my life... and I am thinking of you and all your china quite often these days! Lovely to have your memories of secret hazel trees. Lots of Love x

Chris said...

My allotment neighbour has just chaopped three hazelnut trees down for no known reason as he's not used the spcae they occupied.

Such a shame as I used to munch on them myself (nobody else seemed to bother).

I'll have to consider planting a couple in their place now you've whet my appetite Jeneane. :-)

Jeneane said...

Is it possible that your neighbour has coppiced the trees? If he has left a clump of stumps then he is probably treating them in the traditional way. I think 12 years is the recommended coppicing time. Lots of benefits: to encourage new fruiting wood and provide timber for stakes, hurdles, hedge binding and ahem... morris sticks. It also opens up the ground for woodland plants like primroses to get an airing for a few years. I am delighted to know that my blog is encouraging tree planting :-D

Chris said...

No, I wish he had Jeneane. He had made a half-hearted attempt to dig and pull the roots out. Just plain vandalism if you ask me.

I did salvage a couple of sticks though so I'll have a walking stick for my old age. ;-)

Jeneane said...

This is similar to Cro's recent story about his neighbours over at Magnon's Meanderings. All the best with your new plantings.

John Gray said...

the brown colour of the nuts in the lovely isnt it?

Jeneane said...

I have to confess that I was having a bit of trouble with the colour balance on my camera, but I did like the effect, which is more of an enhancement of their lovely polished brown than a lie.

the cuby poet said...

You have reminded me that I used to collect hazel nuts from the hedgerows and although we collect blackberrries in the autumn we never think of nuts but maybe we will take s closer look this year. Keep the dance alive Kitty.

Jeneane said...

Just think of the culinary possibilities - hazelnut torte served layered with blackberry conserve and cream for instance :-)

Susan Heather said...

Hello Jeneane - I have just come to you from Cro's site (my brother). I do miss hazel nuts. In our previous property we grew macadamias but hazel nuts have their own special flavour and we always had at least one tree in the garden.

I don't know whether they would grow well here and the possums would have a field day.

Jeneane said...

Welcome Susan Heather, lovely to have you visit. Isn't the blogosphere fascinating linking us all up around the world. And there in Cro's comment is mention of your father's hazel grove.