The very beginning of spring is flowering time for hazelnut trees, whose charming little blossoms are so important for bees. Indeed they provide those tireless insects with precious nourishment at a time of the year when there is scarcity all around. This is also a delightful display for ‘unhurried’ people who will be able to admire the purplish red appearance of the tiny female flowers.
Hazelnut (Corylus avellana) is a small, multi-stem tree with an irregular crown, belonging to the birch family. This type of tree prefers damp, cool soil in which to develop a large and superficial root system.
Since prehistoric times, human beings have learnt to appreciate the hazelnut tree, and not just for its fruit. Myths and legends throughout Europe and Asia Minor speak about regeneration and fertility induced by buds, leaves, bark, fruit and branches – each part of the tree is endowed with extraordinary properties.
To this day, somewhere between magic and reality, we can still come across the centuries-old picture of a dowser searching for water with a hazelnut branch.
Apart from being a giver of wisdom, the hazelnut tree tends to spread naturally, performing the role of an environmental sentinel both as a pioneer plant and a protector of sloping grounds, where erosion and landslides are likely.
Our hazelnut grove was established some thirty years ago, and extends over 25 continuous hectares of land.
At the height of their growing season, our hazelnut trees create a sylvan atmosphere affording the visitor charming games of light and shade, as well as warm and cool sensations whilst the visitor walks over a soft and silent grassy carpet.
The grove consists of two cultivars, namely ‘Tonda Gentile Romana’ and ‘Nocchione’, the latter serving as pollinator.
After the September harvest, the growing cycle starts with a first fast pruning, which allows the elimination of dead branches. The pruning proper takes place from November through to January.
In spring, our specific farming practices result in the growth of lush and varied grasses, which are then mowed – an operation occurring several times – and left on the ground as mulch.
No case of disease has been detected in our hazelnut grove, possibly due to the fact that our orchard is isolated from the main hazelnut growing area.
The only treatment our hazelnut trees receive is copper-based to dry up the lichens growing on the tree trunks. This is done in March when the weather is mild, the tree is active and its leaves are no bigger than a 2-euro coin.
Finally, between June and July we remove the new shoots growing from the ground. This operation called suckering is done to ensure that at harvest time the trees are clean.
September is approaching. The nuts both of the Nocchione and the smaller but more valued Tonda Gentile Romana varieties are ready to detach themselves from the trees and fall to the ground, from where an automatic self-moving machine will gather them up within a short period of time. The machine is fitted with brushes and an internal collector, and it’s in the collector that special fans perform the first culling, eliminating leaves, empty shells and all other light components.
How long the hazelnuts will be left lying on the ground depends mainly on the weather at harvest time – dry weather does not harm the nuts, which conversely will rot in wet weather.
The nuts will then be carted to the farm’s processing centre where a sorting machine will perform a second culling, and eliminate empty or broken shells, stones and other foreign material.
The nuts thus selected still in their whole shells are conveyed to the silo where they will be air-dried at a 35°Celsius, this serves to reduce their water content to 10% of their weight in order to ensure their successful conservation.