Here in the Pacific Northwest, chefs, bakers and candy-makers share their love of Oregon hazelnuts in unique and delicious ways. We like to call them our “year-round heroes of hazelnuts.” Meet Portland Chef Matt Jones:
After just one bite of Tabor Tavern’s homemade spaetzle, you will be hooked. Made with brown butter, sage, parmesan and Oregon-grown mushrooms and hazelnuts, Tabor Tavern’s head chef, Matt Jones, clearly knows how to turn Oregon-foraged ingredients into a signature dish. Born and raised in Montana, Matt made his way to Portland in 2007 to pursue a degree from the Oregon Culinary Institute. Five years later, he’s leading a bustling kitchen at Tabor Tavern, a three-year old brew-pub, where the creative food and drinks immediately won the hearts and appetites of the neighborhood’s residents.
Matt credits his grandmother and mother for his love of cooking comfort foods. Eating home-cooked family meals was the norm for him growing up, and explains his appreciation for satisfying and delicious food. One of the many reasons Matt enjoys working at Tabor Tavern is the restaurant’s emphasis on local – not just with ingredients, but also their commitment to their neighborhood regulars who enjoy pints of craft brews and high-quality, yet affordable meals in a welcoming environment. When asked why he uses hazelnuts in his spaetzle dish, his response was simple: “I love hazelnuts, and they add an earthy flavor, and an unexpected texture and crunch.”
Matt also has a personal appreciation for the natural beauty of the canopy created in hazelnut orchards, and how they’re cared for by generations of family farmers – a setting that Matt and his wife chose for their wedding in the summer of 2011. Now that’s hazelnut love.
Late summer is always a very exciting time of the year but his year is a little different than other years. The early spring combined with this year’s unusually warm dry summer is causing the earliest drop of hazelnuts I can remember. In anticipation of the early harvest, we started several weeks ago cleaning and leveling the orchard floor to make the ground ready before the earliest nuts started to fall. Today the preparation of the orchard floor is done, the nuts are falling onto the ground, empty tote boxes are being hauled to the orchards, and the sweepers and pickers are being checked again to make sure they are “Fire Engine Ready” for another harvest to begin. We expect to have enough nuts on the ground to justify starting harvest very shortly after Labor Day. As a comparison we often start picking around September 20th.
Harvesting is done mechanically with several pieces of machinery working in close coordination. A specialized machine sweeps the nuts and leaves into rows while the picker sweeps up the row of nuts and leaves, separates the nuts from the leaves and puts the nuts into totes. A tractor with forks on it is used to bring empty totes to the picker and haul the full totes to the loading area where the full totes are loaded onto trucks to be hauled to the nut cleaner. At the nut cleaner the nuts are washed and then dried. There never seems to be a shortage of jobs during harvest. This harvest my granddaughter will be helping weigh trucks so we will have three generations of Chapin’s working together. That realization makes me feel old.
I have at times been asked what my favorite part of harvest is. Without a question of a doubt the most enjoyable moment is when we have all of the harvest equipment started, seeing the family work together as a team, and watching that first tote fill up with hazelnuts. I feel there is something almost magical about that moment each year. After that – harvest is on!
– Bruce Chapin
It used to be that you would sit down with a bowl of nuts, and crack them by hand one at a time. Each kernel a reward for getting through the tough outer shell. Today’s consumers prefer the convenience of tossing back a handful of hazelnut kernels as a quick, heart healthy snack. This change in hazelnut consumption has left mounds of shells with no final destination. David Bantz knew he could find a good market for this byproduct of the hazelnut industry. He had used hazelnut shells in his own yard before to keep the slugs out, and the weeds down. In 2010 David founded He Sells These Shells selling 25-pound sacks of hazelnut shells at farmers’ markets in the Portland Metro area as long lasting mulch, slug deterrent, to reduce weed growth, and as a more permeable ground cover. You can now find He Sells These Shells in 5 farmers’ markets, and on the shelves of over 40 retailers in the Portland Metro area.
David has just wrapped up his best month to date with 143,950 pounds of shells sold, a 46% increase over his previous best month. He Sells These Shells still has its traditionally strongest months to go (April, May, June, and July). David partially attributes this growth to the increase of shelling in the Oregon Hazelnut industry. A larger supply has brought prices of the shells down to be more competitive with traditional bark mulch. David is finding even more room for growth by working with businesses, and researchers to find industrial applications for hazelnut shells.
Storm water carries metals, oils and other additives from industrial areas into our watersheds. These pollutants can be harmful to humans and wildlife. Hazelnuts might be able to help prevent them from ever even reaching the water system. Hazelnut shells are showing promise in filtering Zinc and Copper out of industrial storm water. Tests have shown that hazelnut shells as a part of bio-pillows used at the Port of Vancouver have removed over 76% of Zinc and 86% of copper. Further testing being done at Cal State Pomona has shown that hazelnuts shells can remove up to 96% of chromium from storm water. He Sells These Shells provides the hazelnut shells for these studies.
If you would like more information on David and He Sells These Shells, or where to buy hazelnut shells visit: HeSellsTheseShells.com.
Oregon’s hazelnut harvest has ended. As growers repair machinery, tidy the orchard floor and recover from the hectic season, Oregon’s prized nuts begin their journey from orchard to consumer.
First, nuts are cleaned, weighed, sampled and dried. Then, they are either left in their shells, or are shelled and sorted by kernel size and put into vacuum-sealed bags for snacking. Shelled nuts are also used to make products like hazelnut butter and hazelnut flour.
Where do all of these hazelnuts go? The majority of Oregon’s nuts are exported to places like China where consumers prefer in-shell hazelnuts. The rest are consumed in the U.S. in many different forms. The Pacific Northwest’s best restaurants and bakeries feature Oregon hazelnuts on their menus year round.
October’s hazelnut harvest was a race to gather all of the hazelnuts off the orchard floor before the fall rains came and luckily, we were on-hand to capture the process of harvest at Christensen Farms where Zach and his family tend to more than 600 acres of hazelnuts.
Hungry for more? Celebrate the heritage of Oregon hazelnuts at the Mt. Angel Hazelnut Festival on Dec. 6-7. This event is perfect for the whole family, featuring local arts and crafts, Oregon wine and brews and of course, nutty snacks!
It’s an age-old question among Oregonians: are they called hazelnuts or filberts?
According to European folklore, early filbert crops would ripen around August 22th, the feast day of French monk St. Philibert. As French colonists settled in Oregon in the 17th century, they planted hazelnuts and began naming the nut in honor of St. Philibert.
Whatever name you call them, we’re lucky that they grow abundantly here in Oregon and that harvest is just around the corner!
Hungry for more? Check out this Oregonian article on the nutty debate.