Guess what people? I have a major writer’s block right now. Unfortunately, despite the temporary (psychological) impediment, I must write. Because this particular article is among a collection of other posts that I’m writing in advance and pre-scheduling for my blog. I’m preparing for the “long days ahead” when I’m in school and don’t have an ounce of time to spare writing more elaborate posts on my lonely blog. So when you’re reading this I’m probably taking an exam. Or studying for an exam. Or right after an exam, and preparing for another exam. Because that’s what you do when you’re a student.
So I think I was craving some chocolate-y nutella when this blog post idea came to mind. I started wondering about the health benefits of hazelnuts and it dawned on me that among all the nutrition and health articles I read, and on all the “natural” blogs out there, nobody really promoted the qualities of these charming little kernels. So I took it upon myself to bring these classy beauties into the spotlight.
Some Background on Hazelnuts
There are various names for hazelnuts. The name “hazelnut” comes from the Old English hæselhnutu, Dutch hazelnoot, and German hasselnusz. The Anglo-Saxon root word “haesel” supposedly means headdress. Hazelnuts are also called “filberts” (French origin) after the holiday of St. Philbert since the hazelnuts would be ripe around the time of that holiday.
The nuts grow in green clumps of about 4-12 nuts, and are about the size of acorns. After 7-8 months of ripening, they turn that beautiful hazel color and are ready for collecting.
Hazelnuts were cultivated since ancient Chinese civilizations; the Romans also used hazelnuts, and they were popular in the Middle East as well. So it isn’t really precisely known where they originated.
It is said that hazelnuts were introduced to the United States in the 1700s by David Gernot, a Frenchman who started a hazelnut grove in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Today, Oregon and Washington states are among the top producers of hazelnuts in North America.
(Willamette Valley River)
Even President George Washington had a special interest in hazelnuts. The first commercial nursery was started up by Robert Prince in 1737. The nursery cultivated American hazelnut trees and imported “Barcelona” hazelnuts trees from Spain. After Washington visited the nursery, he liked it so much he made sure it was safely guarded during the Revolutionary War.
So there you have it, some background info and history on hazelnuts! Now on to the eating part, shall we?
Culinary Uses of Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are used in a variety of ways in many dishes.
From the obvious delicious Nutella…
to chocolate with hazelnuts…
to hazelnut truffles and praline…
to hazelnut coffee flavor, like hazelnut latte…
to hazelnut flour…
and hazelnut oil…
and even hazelnut soup…
Hazelnuts are used in any dessert imaginable, from cookies to cakes and cereal. They’re canned, made into paste, or mixed with other nuts, and surprisingly there’s even hazelnut liquor.
If you want to make your own home-made nutella, there are a variety of recipes floating out on the internet, especially pinterest. I want to try this one.
Now don’t start licking the screen after looking at all those delicious ways you can use hazelnuts. Wait till I tell you the benefits of hazelnuts- then you’ll always have an excuse for indulging in a little too much nutella (or hazelnut latte for that matter).
Benefits of Hazelnuts
Dioscorides, a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist wrote about the stupendous qualities of hazelnuts:
“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.”
- Hazelnuts are high in magnesium which is great for cardiovascular health and muscle strength, function, and bone formation.
- They also contain large amounts of B vitamins vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 and B9 (folic acid), which help keep the nervous system functioning in tip top shape, increase memory, reduce stress and depression etc.
- Are you looking to control your cholesterol? Well, hazelnuts are your friends because they contain lots of oleic acid which raises the HDL cholesterol and lowers the LDL cholesterol.
- Any pregnant blogging ladies out there? Hazelnuts are champions in folate content (they beat all the other tree nuts in this quality).
- Hazelnuts are one of the best sources of manganese and copper.
- Plagued by frequent UTIs? Hazelnuts contain proanthocyanidin a flavonol, which reduce risk of UTI and even blood clotting.
- Hazelnuts are in the “elite” group of tree nuts, cause not everyone has the coveted vitamin A, which helps the immune system, promotes good vision, and great skin.
- Hazelnuts even have 86% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin E, another great skin vitamin.
- They’re a great source of fiber and energy.
- And the list could go on…
Cosmetic Uses of Hazelnuts
- Hazelnut oil is rich in Vitamin E which is good for the skin and used for reducing scars.
- It is used in massage therapy.
- Hazelnut oil does not go rancid easily, so it can be stored for a long time- thus it is used in many cosmetic creams, lotions and soaps.
- According to Dioscorides, Hazelnut paste can help cure bald spots.
Other Interesting Facts
Hazel and willow wood would be used to make Coracle boats in Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland.
There is a type of hazel tree which is used in landscaping because it has a very unique appearance. It is the Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, or more commonly called “Harry Lauder’s walking stick” or the “Corkscrew Hazel”. The branches of this tree are naturally twisted and turned, and looks like it came out of a creepy horror movie…but apparently people like that.
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