EUGENE, Ore. - More and more Oregon farmers are taking an interest in growing hazelnuts.
But many Oregonians still call hazelnuts "filberts."
KVAL News asked Ross Penhallegon with the Oregon State University cooperative extension service.
Here's the basic story:
The whole world calls the tasty brown nuts "hazelnuts."
But there is a wild filbert variety related to the nut marketed as hazelnuts. Oregonians just decided to call them all filberts.
But as Oregon farms shipped filberts to Turkey, Italy and Spain where lots of hazelnuts are sold, Europeans didn't know what to make of "filberts."
To compete in the world market, Oregon farmers had to start calling their filberts hazelnuts.
Here's what the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board has to say on the matter:
We're often asked: is it a Filbert or a Hazelnut?
There's truly no wrong answer. "Filbert" is the correct name for both the tree and nut. The name is of French origin, and filbert trees were likely first introduced into Oregon by early French settlers. Some thought "filbert" was derived from St. Philibert, as August 22 is dedicated to him, corresponding to the earliest ripening date of filberts in England.
"Hazelnut" is the name coined by the English and applied to the native species by early settlers. In 1981, the Oregon Filbert Commission decided to conform to the common standard and began emphasizing "hazelnut."
Regardless of what name you call it by, this is one nut that's been revered for centuries. According to a manuscript found in China, from the year 2838 B.C., the filbert took its place among the five sacred nourishments God bestowed on human beings. In olden times, the filbert was used as a medicine and a tonic. More than 1,800 years ago, Greek physician Dioscorides emphasized the properties of the filbert:
"It cures chronic coughing if pounded filbert is eaten with honey. Cooked filbert mixed with black pepper cures the cold. If the ointment produced by mashing burnt filbert shells in suet is smeared on the head where hair does not grow due to normal baldness or to some disease, hair will come again."
- In 1905, George Dorris of Springfield started the first commercial orchard with more than 200 Barcelona trees. Barcelona is the most prominent variety grown in Oregon today. The Dorris Ranch is now a living history filbert farm with thousands of visitors annually.
- The hazelnut became Oregon's official State Nut in 1989.
- Hazelnuts are also known as "filberts." Some speculate the name originated from "full beard," which refers to the husk (or "beard") that entirely covers the nut in some varieties. Others believe the name was derived from St. Philibert, as August 22 (a date that corresponds to the ripening of the earliest filberts in England) is dedicated to him.
- About 650 Oregon farm families grow hazelnuts on 29,000 acres.
- The total value growers received for their hazelnut crop has averaged nearly $70 million during the last five years. This translates into a total economic impact of more than $150 million in Oregon.
- Hazelnut trees can produce until over 80 years of age.
- The hazelnut is unique in that it blooms and pollinates in the middle of winter. Wind carries the pollen from yellow catkins to a tiny red flower, where it stays dormant until June, when the nut begins to form.
- The nuts mature during the summer months, turning from green to shades of hazel nestled in a protective husk, and are harvested in late September or October after they have fallen to the ground.
- In 1858, the first cultured hazelnut tree was planted in Oregon by retired Hudson's Bay Company employee, Sam Strictland in Scottsburg.