You might remember hazelnuts as your favorite ingredient in Nutella or the nut that adds that sweet crunch to your favorite chocolate.
So, of course, that is the exact thought we had when we read about hazelnuts. But what if we tell you there is more to this healthy nut?
Chock full of protein and delicious to eat, let us dive into the crunchy, nutty world of hazelnuts and the benefits of hazelnuts.
In a list of top ten nuts globally, hazelnut makes a list at number six. These statistics were based on the worldwide consumption of nuts.
These nuts are behind peanuts (no surprise), almonds, walnut, cashew, and pistachio. Although peanuts are not technically nuts, they are considered so for statistical purposes.
Turkey is considered to be the largest producer of hazelnuts. With Italy, Spain, and USA also being part of the hazelnut league.
And a fun twist in the story is that almost none other than Ferrero SpA uses a quarter of the entire world’s hazelnut production.
Do we even need to mention what they make? But for the readers who do not know, this company is responsible for producing Nutella and Ferrero Rocher, along with other hazelnut-chocolate combinations.
Hazelnuts in history
Hazelnuts are not just a sweet ingredient to make chocolate taste better; there are many benefits of hazelnut.
Unfortunately, the hazelnut is more of a treat than a staple. And although the hazelnut is a treat, it was once of vital importance and an essential part of the diet. This era was the Mesolithic era into the Bronze Age, which was 3000 to 8000 years ago in northeastern Europe.
The state of Ireland was used as a case study for hazelnut exploitation. The archaeologists Anne M. G. McComb and Derek Simpson wrote in the Ulster Journal of Archeology journal about the importance of hazelnuts in diets. The book explored the centrality of the nut.
One of the species of hazels, the Corylus avellane, was a historical success in European history. The secret to this nut’s success was that it was one of the first few shrubs that started to grow in new temperatures after the land had recovered from ice sheets.
In Ireland, the hazels established themselves almost 10,000 years ago. And if we look at the pollen samples, their reached their peak spread around 8000 years ago.
Sometime after this, the broadleaf oak and elm trees overshadowed the growth of hazels because the hazels were low-key compared to them.
Research on the nuts
The authors decided to get an idea of how prolific the European hazel plant is, and for that, they carried out some research. First, they surveyed a sample hazel which was about 4 meters tall. They found this plant in the County Down, in a hazel coppice.
It showed that this plant was being harvested for a long time. In late August of that year, the authors found 950 hazelnuts on the plant and about 20 unopened ones lying on the ground. Most of the nuts fell in October, in its first week. In this process, they retrieved about 580 nuts from the floor.
Research showed that many wild animals might have eaten those nuts that were lying on the ground. And now, the Mesolithic people had the competition on who would get more nuts?
But let’s not underestimate this tasty nut. It was not just for show; it had many other benefits too. Hazelwood was also used for firewood and charcoal making. Not only this, it is said that the leaves were also a good option as fodder for domesticated animals.
Today, there are many species of hazelnuts that are native to North America. This is because the many indigenous people living on the continent ate the American hazelnut and the beaked hazelnut.
McComb and Simpson wrote that the uses demonstrated the wide versatility of the hazelnut kernel that the indigenous people of North America created. According to them, the people of prehistoric Ireland had likely developed different ways to process the hazelnut kernels.
Hazelnuts as a powerhouse of energy
Hazelnuts are full of protein; they are also a rich source of fats and carbohydrates. They are very concentrated, which makes them a great energy source. However, they do have a minor setback. They are not very rich in fiber and moisture, and having them in excessive amounts can cause digestive issues.
And not only this, hazelnuts are even an excellent savory ingredient. They can be an active ingredient in flours and oils and mixed with grains and vegetables.
So, we can say that the hazelnut is the jack of all trades. In the end, although it is not a Mesolithic combination, we know that hazelnut goes best with chocolate.
And when we think about a big jar of Nutella and digging into it with a spoon or taking a big chunk of chocolate, it makes us go nuts. No pun intended.
Politigory provides in-depth reviews of science, history, humanities, religion, social sciences and arts