Hazel nuts come from the hazel tree Corylus avellana and are also known as filberts and cobnuts. They are a common sight in Britain’s woods, making a feast for the grey squirrels, wood mice and dormice. They are good to eat straight from the tree, and come with a little frilly green “cape” on their tops. You peel this off, and eat the green-white kernel, which doesn’t have a nutty taste at this stage, but more of a vegetable one. If you pick them fresh you can keep them for a few months and they will dry in a warm place-not hot- to be eaten at the winter festivals such as Christmas and New Year.
  The name Filbert comes from Saint Philibert, whose day is when the cultivated nuts are harvested, in August. The hazel nut has been used for food since prehistoric times, and our hunter-gatherer ancestors must have looked forward to the hazel nut season, as I used to. My grandfather would take me for walks up the mountains near our home and feed me fresh hazel nuts which I found delicious.
  For Celts hazelnuts symbolized concentrated wisdom and poetic inspiration and these were known in Gaelic as cnocach, cno meaning wisdom. The salmon revered by the Druids ate the nuts and they got the bright spots on their skin according to how many nuts they had consumed.
  Hazel nuts are probably the best nuts to consume as they are tasty and very versatile. Among the class of Superfoods, they are one of the highest, as they contain Proanthocyanidin (PAC) and are the nuts which have the second highest antioxidant activity. They contain folic acid, B-complex vitamins, are a rich source of vitamin E and have, along with pine nuts and almonds, the lowest percentage of saturated fats of all nuts. They are high in dietary fibre and contain the minerals phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron, bioflavonoids including quercetin, amino acids, and Omega-3 fatty acid.
  Removing the skin decreases the benefits that can be obtained from the nuts, so you can crush them with their skins on and use them in cooking. The phenolic compounds they possess appear to be found in the skin and not the flesh of the nut. You can roast them whole with their skin on but if you can’t take the skin, you can easily peel it off after roasting by using a tea-towel or other thin cloth so that you don’t burn your fingers.
   Hazel nuts have valuable antioxidant properties, as well as being good for our mental health, as they are regarded as good for the brain. Because of the B-complex vitamins they contain. They help to prevent the formation of cataracts in the eye (vitamin E) and help to regulate blood pressure. The oil which is contained in the nuts is used for cooking and is particularly good for salad dressing. It can also be applied to the skin and used on acne. It is, in some countries, massaged into babies’ chests to prevent respiratory problems occurring. The oil can be found in some sunscreen products as it protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation.
  Hazel nut coffee is good too, and you can make your own by powdering the nuts and adding to your coffee. In America, June 1st is National Hazelnut Cake Day, and it has to be said that these nuts combine very well with chocolate as stated in the 1960s jingle for hazelnut chocolate, “Nuts-whole hazelnuts, Cadbury’s take them and cover them in chocolate.” (You have to imagine this sung to a kind of Calypso beat.)
  The recipe below is for a healthy meal with hazel nuts, which should have their skins left on.
4 courgettes, trimmed and cut into four equal parts
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion very finely chopped
3 red peppers, roasted and skins removed
3½ - 4 ozs cream cheese
1 tbsp fresh tarragon or oregano, finely shredded
1 tbsp hazel nuts, crushed

balsamic vinegar
olive oil

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4 or 180 ° C.
Scoop out the middle of the courgettes and drizzle a little olive oil in each cavity, then season and roast on a greased baking tray for 10-12 minutes or until the courgette quarters are soft.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes until it is soft.
Blend the onion and peppers to a puree then mix in the cream cheese and tarragon or oregano.
Put the mixture into the courgette cavities, sprinkle with the crushed nuts.
To serve, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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