In September and October, the ripe hazelnuts fall from the bush. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a hazelnut in your garden or you discover a hazel bush growing wild in a hedge or at the edge of the forest while out for a walk. The freshly collected nuts must first be dried in the sun or on the heater. They are left in the wooden shell and can then be stored in this form for a year. If necessary, crack the nuts fresh.
Hazelnut: habitat and food for wildlife
It makes perfect sense to get hazelnut in the garden, because the shrub is ecologically very valuable. However, you should have at least two hazel bushes in the garden, because cross-pollination is preferable due to the separate-sex flowers.
The hazelnut feeds 33 species of mammals, which are particularly interested in the energy-rich nuts. The nuts are also eaten by 10 species of birds, such as the great spotted woodpecker, hawfinch and nuthatch. Pollen, leaves, twigs and nuts also interest 112 insect species, including many beetles, bugs and small butterflies. The early bloomer with its catkins is also a very important pollen supplier for bees and bumblebees. The hazelnut is thus one of the most important food plants for the local animal world. However, the hazel is not a boon for everyone: a hazel bush produces up to 600 million pollen in its catkins, which unfortunately can trigger allergies (hay fever) in sensitive people.
The hazelnut has been highly respected since time immemorial
The fat-rich hazelnuts were already a valuable gathering food for our Stone Age ancestors. For this reason, the hazelnut was a highly respected tree for thousands of years, and was already revered as sacred by the Celts. The wood was said to have extraordinary magic powers: Forked hazel branches were used as divining rods to find water veins and springs. The dowsing rod was used not only to find water, but also to locate hidden treasures, ores, metals, stray cattle, or even criminals.
But the wood of the hazel bush also provided protection from thunderstorms and snakes. That’s why three pins of hazel wood were hammered into the roof beams to deflect lightning. Or seven hazel catkins were thrown into the hearth fire and the rising smoke drove away the thunderstorm. According to Christian legend, the hazel got its defensive powers from the Mother of God, Mary, who once found shelter from a thunderstorm under a hazel bush. She then asked God to spare the hazel bush from lightning for eternity in gratitude.
When hiking, people carried a hazel stick with them, which could ward off poisonous snakes. Even the lightest touch with a hazel branch was enough to kill them. According to legend, Our Lady was once again responsible for this: she was once attacked by an adder in the forest while picking strawberries. She hid behind a hazel bush and was saved. Then, on her way home, she said, “As the hazel shrub has been my protection, so shall it be to others in the future.”
A symbol of fertility
The hazelnut is an ancient symbol of vitality and fertility. Therefore, in folk eroticism, people associated the nuts with sexuality. The single hazelnut was considered a vulva symbol, while two nuts standing together in pairs were interpreted as testicles. In folk magic, nuts were used as an antidote for impotence and listlessness. A man who could not conceive children should put three nuts in his pocket before the sexual act, then the woman would conceive immediately.
In the Middle Ages, the expression “crack nuts” was synonymous with the “deflowering” of a woman, which has come down to us in many crude sayings and folk songs. The expression “to go into the hazels” was also a clear allusion to premarital sexual intercourse. A young woman, who was said to be able to “go into the hazels” quickly with her, was not given a birch mai in front of the house on May 1, but a hazel bush. This custom was documented as early as 1393 in Normandy. Her misstep was made public, so to speak, which shows that even in the Middle Ages people were bullied vigorously! Sayings such as “He must have sprung from a hazel bush” or “Much hazel, much children without a father” are clear allusions to illegitimate children.
Effective folk medicine with hazelnut
In folk medicine of more recent times, mainly leaves and flower catkins are used for medicinal purposes: The male flower catkins are considered a diaphoretic and antipyretic cold remedy and can be combined very well with elderflower or lime blossom to make a cold tea. To make this, collect the male catkins in February while they are in bloom. They are scalded with hot water and left to infuse for 5 minutes (1 tablespoon to 200 ml of water).
The leaves are used to treat wounds, skin diseases and diarrhea due to the astringent effect of the numerous tannins they contain. It is also used as a gargle for inflammation of the mouth and throat. The leaves have a strong antioxidant and antimicrobial effect, because they contain many phenolic acids. They also stimulate the metabolism and are therefore often a component of “blood purification teas”. They are best collected in May. 2 teaspoons to a cup of water make an effective tea.
Healthy cuisine with hazelnut
From September, the delicious nuts ripen. They are versatile whole or ground: mixed in trail mix, energy bars or muesli, as a baking ingredient for cakes and breads or for nut puree, nut pesto and nut butter. There are also small household oil presses that you can use to press a wonderful oil from the hazelnuts. Roasted nuts can also be used to flavor a liqueur (see recipe). In general, roasting in the oven (10-15 minutes at 100 °C) intensifies the fine nutty aroma. It also removes the brown outer skin, which tastes somewhat bitter. To get rid of it completely, after roasting the nuts are placed in a tea towel and rubbed in it.
Hazelnuts are a great way to combine pleasure and health: The fine nuts have been proven to help with poor concentration and forgetfulness. They are not called brain food for nothing. Presumably for this reason they ended up in the so-called trail mix, which has been mixed from nuts and dried fruit since the 17th century.
The nuts are a valuable source of fats (60%) and proteins (16%). They are rich in valuable polyunsaturated fatty acids. Thus, they regulate cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Particularly noteworthy is also the high content of vitamin E, as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Magnesium, which is important for the heart and muscles, covers more than half of the daily requirement with 158 mg per 100 g. But because of the high fat content, they should be enjoyed in moderation, i.e. a maximum of a handful per day. Unfortunately, nuts are among the allergenic foods that are not tolerated by some people.
250 g hazelnuts
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
700 ml vodka or grain
175 g sugar
100 ml water
Roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 100 °C for 15 minutes. Turn them from time to time. Allow to cool and chop coarsely in a blender. Place in a sealable jar with halved vanilla pod and broken cinnamon stick. Pour alcohol over it and let it rest for 4-6 weeks. Then pour off through a fine sieve. Make a sugar solution from sugar and water (simmer for 10 minutes). Allow to cool and add to the liqueur mixture. Pour into bottles and let mature for another 3 weeks before enjoying.
250 g hazelnuts
1 liter of water
2-3 dates or 1 tbsp. date syrup
2 spsp. vanilla
Roast the hazelnuts at 100 °C for 10 minutes in a preheated oven. Allow to cool and remove the skins. To do this, place the nuts in a tea towel and rub them so that the skins come off. Pour the water over them and let them soak overnight. Put them in a blender with the dates (without the stone) and vanilla and blend on high speed for a few minutes. Pour the whole through a very fine sieve or a straining cloth and squeeze. The vegan hazelnut milk is ready! Refrigerated, the milk will keep for 2-3 days. You can use the leftover hazelnut mixture for baking.
200 g hazelnuts
150 ml olive oil
70 g dried tomatoes in oil
juice and grated peel of 1 small lemon
1 bunch of parsley
1 small chili
1 teaspoon salt
Roast the hazelnuts in a dry pan or in the oven and let them cool down. Puree in a blender together with the other ingredients. It can be used as a spread on bread or mixed with pasta. When using for pasta, you can dilute the pesto with 100 ml of cream.