Hazelnuts are a delicious snack that can be harvested right in your own backyard. The 2 most common species of hazelnuts in North America are the beaked hazelnut and the American hazelnut. Beaked hazelnuts are tapered at the end and have a fuzzy outer shell, while American hazelnuts are large and round with smooth leaves. Before you eat wild hazelnuts, you must correctly harvest and dry them.
Harvesting American Hazelnuts
- Pick American hazelnuts in the fall. American hazelnuts are typically ripe in September or October. The nuts should start to turn brown, but the leaves around the nut should still be green. If you pick the nuts before this time, they won’t be ripe enough and won’t taste good.
- The leaves around the nuts are called involucres.
- If you wait for the hazelnuts to fall to the ground, there’s a good chance that animals will collect them first.
- Cut nut clusters from the tree. Use a pair of sterilized gardening shears to cut the nut clusters from the tree. Target clusters with a large quantity of nuts. Remember to leave a couple of clusters on the tree so that the wildlife near you has something to eat!
- The nut clusters will grow back during the next growing season.
- Wipe the blades on your gardening shears with a rag saturated in rubbing alcohol before you cut the plant to prevent spreading disease.
- Leave the nuts in a well-ventilated area for 2-3 weeks. Store the nuts in a sack, crate, or net in your garage or another well-ventilated place. Over the 2-3 weeks the hazelnuts will dry out and turn brown.
- Don’t leave the nuts outside or animals will eat them.
- Pluck the nuts from the involucres. After the hazelnuts dry, it’ll be easier to separate the nuts from the leaves. Empty the nuts from the sack or crate, and pull the nuts from the leaves. Then, place the separated nuts back into the sack or crate.
- Dry the hazelnuts in the sun for a week. Keep the hazelnuts in the sack or crate that you used to dry them. Place the hazelnuts in a safe place that receives direct sunlight. This will finish the drying out process.
- Remember to keep the hazelnuts in an area where they won’t be eaten by animals.
- Eat or store the hazelnuts. After the nuts dry out, you can crack them or toast them in the oven. You can store the hazelnuts for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
Picking and Drying Beaked Hazelnuts
- Wear a pair of gardening gloves. Beaked hazelnuts are covered with small spines on the leaves surrounding the nut that can stick to your hands. To prevent discomfort, wear a pair of thick gardening gloves when you handle them.
- You can buy gardening gloves from department stores, home and gardening stores, or online.
- Harvest beaked hazelnuts in the summer. Unlike American hazelnuts, which are harvested in the fall, beaked hazelnuts should be harvested in the summer. Typically, you should start harvesting the nuts in late July.
- If you wait till after the summer, most beaked hazelnuts will be harvested by animals.
- Dry the nuts in a ventilated area for 2-4 weeks if your climate is dry. Place the nuts in a sack or crate in a dry place like a garage. Over this time, the nuts inside of the involucre (the leaves surrounding the nut) should dry out.
- Bury the nuts under wet soil for a month if you live in a damp area. If you live in a damp place, you can bury the nuts under the wet soil instead of drying them. This will remove the prickly spines and cause the involucres to rot.
- After you uncover the nuts, the involucres will be black.
- Peel the involucres from the nuts. Wear a pair of gloves and carefully peel the leaves from the nut. The nut should now be brown and ready to be eaten. You can store hazelnuts for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
Things You’ll Need
- Rubbing alcohol
- Gardening shears
- Gardening gloves
- Drying rack or bag
- Make sure that you leave some hazelnuts for the wildlife in your area.
- It will take a hazelnut tree anywhere from 4-7 years to bear fruit.