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Wild Hazelnuts

Wild hazelnuts 

The photo I showed you yesterday-was of a Corylus Cornuta-better known as a wild hazelnut. The plant is more of a shrub than a tree growing 5 to 10 feet tall. It can be found throughout North America and is prolific around my mountain holler.

A month or so ago Granny told me she'd been gathering hazelnuts from the backyard. Pap said she was getting them way to early-but Granny insisted she was going to get them before the ground squirrels found them.

Hazelnut growing in western nc 
The nut grows in the funny looking pod I showed you yesterday-the plant is actually called the Beaked Hazelnut. Once the outer green fuzzy hull dries out the little brown nut falls to the ground.

Very few people take time to fool with the small nut today, but Pap said it was common for folks to gather hazelnuts when he was a boy. Some other things he told me about them:

  • kids often made a snack of them when they were playing or walking somewhere
  • Pap's grandmother and mother would send him to gather hazelnuts
  • it seemed like the fuzzy green outer shell had more fuzz on it back then-Pap's hands would be full of fuzz after a day of picking hazelnuts
  • hazelnuts make Pap think of Christmas-because children usually got 4 or 5 hazelnuts in their Christmas stocking
  • after picking the nuts folks would put them in a bread pan in a warm oven to help dry them out good before storing
  • if they shelled the nut out-they made sure to put it in something with a tight lid cause bugs liked hazelnuts too
  • the shrubs seemed to grow best along old road beds and clearings
  • many people simply called them haznuts

Hazelnuts in cherokee co nc 

When I took the photo of the outer green hull I showed you yesterday-I thought now I'm not going to do like Granny I'm going to wait till the hull dries out before I pick any of the hazelnuts growing in my backyard.

Well Granny was right. I went back a few days later to check-and couldn't find one hazelnut-all I found was the dirty dishes (nut shells) left by my little ground squirrel friends.


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Yep, we got squirrel trash around here, too. But it's pecan and hickory nut shells.
Sorry you lost out on the harvest. I'm they taste the same as the hazel nuts you buy in the store?

Tipper, you do seem to stimulate our memories. At the beginning of WWII we moved from Iowa to Washington state. My Pop did "war work" for the government. We did return to Iowa in 1950 but while in Washington we became acquainted with many things not grown here. One was the hazelnut bush. The shrubs I found were in a little draw in the woods where I was NOT supposed to go. Until Mama discovered where I had found them we all enjoyed the baking she did with those nuts I gathered up. To this day I am partial to hazelnuts. I also remember the paddling I got for going into the woods without telling anyone. I'll have to ask my 95 yr old Mama if she remembers next time I go visit her.

I would like to tell Sandy Kalvailtis that as a boy I use to
chew the Teaberry leaves and eat
those little pink berries. This
plant or bush never grew more than 3" high and was just thick on the slopes where I played. I ordered some and planted in the edge of the woods at my place but they all died, just like most in the mountains have now done.

Sandy-I don't know anything about Teaberries-hopefully someone else will chime in that does!

Blind Pig The Acorn

Celebrating and Preserving the

Culture of Appalachia

In Greece and Cyprus wild hazelnuts grow in the mountains and are collected in late November - early December. We can't always find them on the coast. though. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a weekend in the mountains but the wild hazelnuts weren't ready yet! My mum uses them to make her.... famous chocolate cake with wild hazelnuts for Christmas.

Well, I'll be. I don't recall ever seeing a wild hazelnut. I'm going to have to start looking. That's one of the things I like about you so much, Tipper, I'm always learning something new!

My power has been off and nothing
would work on my phone lines either. But I was foaming at the
mouth to want to tell you that the
hazelnuts that I know about grow
on bushes, like chinqapins. (And
you and the Deer Hunter can come
and see those at my place when
ever you get the time.) But when
I was barely a teenager Daddy
would take me and my just older
brother and we'd walk down the
railroad near the Nantahala Quarry
and gather over a bushel basket
of hazelnuts. The railroad sprayed
and killed them all out, and in
the coal bottoms there use to be
several paw paw trees, which was
George Washington's favorite fruit
desert. But Jim is right about
hazelnuts (haysnuts) growing in
clusters. Interesting post today.

You know my Aunt Jean used to tell me about gathering hazelnuts as a girl around Waynesville. I never got to go hunting them with her. (Wish I had.) I'm going to share with you and your readers another story she told me as a very young girl. It's a Cherokee myth about the hummingbird. I think y'all will enjoy it.

Teaberry ... teaberry ... that's another thing my daddy showed me. How good to be reminded, thanks to Sandy Kalvaitis. But, anymore, I don't know what it would look like.

I wasn't able to recognize it for sure but thought that might be what it was.

We used to pick them from beside the road down in a valley near a wet weather creek bridge. Can't remember seeing one green--as someone has said, it seems I remember some kind of flaps around the nut.

Mama's family always picked them & all the wild nuts. She said they would crack them around the fire at night in winter to eat & to cook with. Her mother made a black walnut cake Mama said was out of this world. Wish I'd been able to try a piece of it.

Thank you so much for this. I can barely remember when I was a kid my grandpa would bring them to me. I loved them more than anything except the "teaberries". Do you know anything about them and where I could find them?

I see that Granny was right. The squirrels do love eat them, well a lot of things I would guess. I am not sure I remember the hazelnut...

An elderly gentleman told me when he was a boy about 85 years ago, his dad had two boards with half hammered in nails. He'd somehow use the boards and pound the hazlenuts between them to shell them. At least that is how it was described to me.
We had two filbert aka hazelnut trees and never got any nuts from them. There are lots of squirrels around here and all I'd find would be what you called dirty dishes!

We seem to have a lot of those around my area too. Some places I have ventured to in the woods is like walking on marbles.

Your wonderful gift is that you stir your readers into a conversation with you and then you let them do all the talking. Your stories and essays do that to me and then I remember, too late, that I should have told you first what good you do.

How could I forget about the "chinkipins"...Until David mentioned them, I had forgotten about my Dad saying they picked them up while they were Madison and Buncombe counties in Western NC...I've never seen any here..
Thanks for the memory,

Sheryl-I believe the ones you're talking about are a different variety-but the wild ones taste like those : )

Blind Pig The Acorn

Celebrating and Preserving the

Culture of Appalachia

David-I've heard about Chinkipins my whole life but never seen one. I honestly couldn't count the people who have told me I have chinkipin eyes. I'll have to ask Pap if he knows if any are growing nearby.

Blind Pig The Acorn

Celebrating and Preserving the

Culture of Appalachia

B.- I have never seen a Pawpaw either. If you click on the link at the beginning of the post-the latin name of the plant-you can see a photo of the shrub.

Blind Pig The Acorn

Celebrating and Preserving the

Culture of Appalachia

How about that, a Hazelnut in pod!...I have heard my Mother speak of picking up Hazelnuts as well as Paw-Paws when she was a younster!...but I have never seen one growing..She loved Hazelnuts, so if they were plentiful, that would explain her craving for them in the Fall...I always wondered about her likeing them so much! Would love to see a picture of the whole shrub..Wish we had some growing here on our place...but we have so many grey squirrels, flying squirrels and chipmunks, they would beat me to them...
The little "boogers" keep my bird feeders emptied at dusk and dark!
Do you have any Paw-paws in your area?
Loved this post as usual..We will be looking for Hazelnuts..
Thanks Tipper,

Jim-check out this page: I belive this Hazelnut is a slightly different species than the one you're talking about-each little pod has a beak growing from the round part. I figured Hazel Creek was named after the nut! But this beaked hazelnut seems to like drier soil-the ones in my backyard are a good 75 yards from the creek.

Blind Pig The Acorn

Celebrating and Preserving the

Culture of Appalachia

Chinkipins, too. Daddy showed us how to find both. He was from Western North Carolina and had Appalachian ways. He took us picking when we lived in Hawkins County (TN) when I was a kid. Of course, chinkipins have a more formal name but that's what Appalachian people called them. Hickory nuts, walnuts, beechnuts are not as easily enjoyable.

Has Pap ever talked about chinkipins?

shoot! i guessed wrong again as i never seen a hazelnut with of all things a tail
you sure do have some good mysteries going on .you sure didnt miss your calling and i thought i knew about those little ol nuts, we had to pass by a tree going to school and i remember us girls throwing them at the boys , probably hoping they would notice us(ha)it seems like 100 yrs ago . but hey lets enjoy still being on top of the grass and hopefully be here awhile then to a better home
have a good sabbath

Interesting story. I have eaten regular hazelnuts, but I don't think I ever spotted these in the woods when I was a kid in East Tennessee.

I love hazelnuts, now is the same nut that is found at the store?

Tipper--I almost never differ with Pap's obviously vast store of sound mountain wisdom and folklore, but this time I will to a certain degree. In my experience, hazelnuts have always been far more common along creek and branch banks than anywhere else. Giving a bit of credence to that is the way one of the most famous trout streams in all the mountains (and one wyou have visited, albeit not to fish)got its name, Hazel Creek derived its name from a vast patch of hazelnut bushes along its banks where it entered the Little Tennessee River (this was, of course, long before Fontana Lake was flooded).
Also, if Granny gathered enough, there are several recipes using hazelnuts in "Wild Bounty," the cookbook Ann and I wrote. You have a copy. Indians used the nuts extensively. They are actually the easiest of all wild nuts to deal with in terms of cracking. Put the right amount of pressure on them and you'll get a whole nut every time. I bet Ken's ingenious walnut cracker would do the trick.
Finally, I've never seen a hazelnut with an appendage like the one you showed yesterday. It appears like a tail, whereas in all my experience with them it's more like they are covered by to fuzzy green flaps. Also, there are almsot always multiple nuts in a cluster, not just a single one. I'll go back and look again If leaves are visible that should tell for sure, and it may have just been the angle of your camera shot.
Anyway, an especially interesting post to me because I've always been interested in hazelnuts (and have two patches of them on my property). Incidentally, grey squirrels work on them just as eagerly and ground squirrels.
Jim Casada

the only hazelnuts I have had is the flavored coffee, which i love. we have come a long way from nuts in the stocking to what is in the stocking costing as much as was spent on my whole Christmas.

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