Back at the tail end of summer we were out with our bags looking for the wild fruit in the valley and then we returned to see if the hazel nuts were ready but sadly they weren't. The hedgerows have been kind to us this year and we have made batches of cherry plum jam and chutneys. Yet, that most short lived of crops, filberts, has often alluded us. It's not like they have rotted on the trees, no filberts have their own very special foraging problems.
The humble hazel nut, also known as a filbert, can be prone to attack from nut weevils which bore into the nut and their larvae eat away the nut. Filbert worm and acorn moth completely destroy the delicious nut leaving a hollow husk. Then on wet years there can be blight, mildew and canker. It is as if nature really has it in for the filbert. On top of all this, there are squirrels that can strip a tree in a day, normally the day before you get there. So, if you find hazel trees you have to watch them, there is a fine line between ripe nuts and gone nuts. We collect ours for Christmas, we know, we know, you don't want to think about it but collecting nuts now will save you a fortune in imported nuts in December and your's will taste better. You know when the nuts are ready because you'll find them scattered on the ground beneath the hazel tree. This is a good and easy rule for any nut that is edible. Grab your nuts, don't snigger or we'll send you out to stand in the corridor, and pull gently, stop that sniggering, ripe nuts will come off the tree easily with the leafy husk. Nuts tend to grow in odd numbers, anything from 1-5 in a cluster. Bag them up and take them home. We place ours in a wicker basket and this allows the nuts to carry on maturing until they turn brown. You can eat hazels straightaway in their green state, they're just as tasty and very sweet.