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Toasting the Oregon Hazelnut (We Do)

It’s good to have neighbors who grow their own hazelnuts in the Willamette Valley.


Like all good Oregonians, we like hazelnuts (or filberts as we call them). We even make a brown ale inspired by our state’s official nut. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Hazelnut Brown Nectar on the Kirk Family’s hazelnut orchard floor.
Hazelnut Brown Nectar on the Kirk Family’s hazelnut orchard floor.

As luck would have it, our neighbors in Independence, Ore. grow hazelnuts.

The Kirk Family’s hazelnut orchard spans 98 acres on land right next door to Rogue Farms on the Willamette River. Each year, they harvest hazelnuts that have fallen from their 36-year-old trees. But harvesting these nuts requires patience. Harvest can’t happen until enough nuts (around 61% of the total crop) have dropped to the ground to be picked up and sorted. While hazelnuts begin falling in mid-September, it takes weeks before enough of them cover the orchard floor.

Hazelnuts covering the floor of the Kirk Family’s orchard.
Hazelnuts covering the floor of the Kirk Family’s orchard.

So the Kirks have been patiently awaiting the right time to harvest. As we picked our hops, they waited. As we carted away pumpkins, they waited. As we collected honey, they waited. We were harvesting cucumbers, Hungarian yellow wax peppers, habanero peppers, burning bush peppers, Lady Finger peppers, mariachi peppers, coriander, angelica root … The Kirks were waiting.

Last week, they stopped waiting. It was time.

The sweeper lines up fallen hazelnuts for the harvesters that will follow.
The sweeper lines up fallen hazelnuts for the harvesters that will follow.

So our neighbors rolled out in their sweepers to organize the nuts into rows. The harvesters followed, picking the nuts off the ground and running them through a series of chains and fans to remove dirt and debris. Next, they’re washed, dried and bagged.

Hazelnuts harvested from the orchard floor.
Hazelnuts harvested from the orchard floor.

The same dance is happening all over our state right now. Around 800 farmers grow hazelnuts on 60,000 acres in Oregon. Farmers have been growing hazelnuts in the Willamette Valley for over 100 years. In 2014, Oregon accounted for 99% of hazelnut production for the U.S.

Other places grow hazelnuts, sure. But Oregon hazelnuts are some of the most in-demand around the world. That’s why we raise a glass to the Oregon-grown hazelnut.