If there’s one thing that makes Oregon famous, it’s our nuts.
Our fellow farmers in the Willamette Valley grow more than 99% of the US hazelnut crop. We’re proud to call some of them our friends and neighbors, and to use their whole nuts in our Hazelnut Spice Rum, and hazelnut extract in our Hazelnut Brown Nectar.
If you like nutty flavor in your beer and spirits, then stick with us for a few more minutes and we’ll teach everything you need to know about hazelnuts.
Filberts vs Hazelnuts
Long time farmers like to call them filberts, their traditional name. Some say the name comes from the feast of St. Philbert’s Day, which in Europe usually coincided with the start of the hazelnut harvest.
Others believe the origin is the German word vollbart, which means full beard. The husk of the hazelnut does look like it grows whiskers. These days most everyone calls them hazelnuts.
They’re Native, But They’re Not
Just like hops, hazelnuts are native to Oregon. Most of the varieties cultivated here were bred from European stock. Several people get credit for introducing hazelnuts to the state. But the first to grow them commercially was George Dorris.
Dorris, a lawyer from Springfield, planted a five-acre orchard of Barcelona nut trees in 1903 and started a hazelnut nursery. It’s estimated that half of the state’s crop came from one of the trees grown on the Dorris Ranch. The ranch is still in operation today as a park and living history farm.
It’s the terroir. The moderate year-round climate of the Willamette Valley is ideally suited for hazelnuts. They tried growing them elsewhere in the US, but Oregon produces the best nuts.
The trees pollinate in January, which makes them vulnerable to extreme cold temperatures. By late spring, the first green nuts appear. They mature and turn brown in late summer.
The timing of the harvest is all up to Mother Nature, usually in late September or early October. It takes several weeks for mature nuts to completely dry on the trees, and then in fall the cool nights and daytime winds help shake them loose. In some years they drop quickly, in other years it may take weeks. Growers wait until about two-thirds of the crop has fallen before harvesting.
A Few More Quick Facts
- Most of the world’s crop (75%) comes from Turkey near the Black Sea, another area of moderate climate.
- Oregon hazelnuts are in high demand because of the large size and excellent flavor.
- General George Washington sent soldiers to guard the nation’s first hazelnut orchard during the Revolutionary War.
- In the wild, hazelnuts grow on shrubs.
With Rogue Farms in the heart of America’s hazelnut country, we can easily find enough nuts for our beers and spirits. But it just feels better being able to get them from our neighbors, the Kirk family.
You’ll drive by their hazelnut orchard on the road to Rogue Farms. Drop in and see how we Grow The Revolution – with a little help from our friends.