Hazlenuts are part of the same family as the cobnut and filbert. In Scandanavian folklore, the tree was dedicated to the god Thor, and the king's symbolic staff was made from its wood. Forked hazel twigs are used, to this day, in water divining.
Hazelnuts have been eaten since earliest times. There are records of their having been collected for food by Stone Age man or woman, and references to them in the works of Theophrastus, the Greek philosopher, and Pliny, the Roman chronicler.
Today, they grow throughout Europe where the male catkins herald spring with their bright yellow anthers. In Britain, they are particularly common in the county of Kent. However, this corner of England cannot satisfy the home demand and the nuts are imported from several sources including France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Armenia.
Hazelnuts can usually replace walnuts and almonds in cakes and pastries, and can be served salted as snacks. They can be lightly roasted in a moderate oven (350F, 180C, Mark 4) for 10-15 minutes depending on their size, until they are a golden brown. They can also be browned under the grill. Their thin brown skins will rub off easily but, during roasting, they should be watched and stirred to avoid over-cooking and uneven colouring. Like all nuts, hazelnuts quickly turn rancid. Once cooled after roasting, they should be stored in an airtight container in a cool place.
Ideally, hazelnuts should be left in their shells for storage. They can also be frozen successfully.
Hazelnuts are high in protein and unsaturated fat, as well as in mineral salts and vitamins (especially calcium, vitamin E and folic acid).
Taken from: THE FRUIT & NUT BOOK by Helena Radecka, Sphere Books Ltd, London, 1984