If around this time of year, you’re usually on the lookout for those freshly picked local hazelnuts to begin baking with, then chances are you’ve noticed that in the past 5 years or so local hazelnuts have been pretty hard to come by.
Typically when you buy hazelnut products commercially, the hazelnuts have come from Turkey – the largest exporter of hazelnuts. But the Pacific Northwest climate in the U.S and Canada are a bit of a “sweet spot” for growing conditions, making the hazelnut one of the only nuts that our valley can grow locally. That is, until the Eastern Filbert Blight rolled in around 2002.
“Our whole industry is on the verge of being eliminated,” said Peter Andres, president of the BC Hazelnut Growers Association. (Abby News, 2012) This is because of an airborne blight that has been creeping further north since the 80s, finally landing in the Fraser Valley in 2002. In recent years, the blight’s irreversible effects have had a devastating impact on many farmers.
At Lepp Farm Market, we ourselves are not hazelnut growers but we can sympathize with the hard work that’s been lost by so many. That’s why we’ve been committed to bringing in Fraser Valley grown hazelnuts, in whatever small quantity shows up on our doorstep. When you see hazelnuts here at the market, you’ll probably notice that they’re a tad pricier than they used to be – but we don’t expect this to always be the case. These are the hazelnuts from trees that have managed to pull through the blight – there aren’t nearly as many trees producing as there used to be, but the ones the ones that have are now carrying farmer’s livelihoods through a difficult time until their newly planted trees begin producing nuts.
Choosing hazelnuts that are fresh and local, like anything else, gives you optimal flavour and nutritional benefits.
Here are some ideas for using Fraser Valley hazelnuts in your Christmas Baking that you’ll want to enjoy all the way through this season!
Christmas Baking with Hazelnuts
Simple Candied Hazelnuts
Perfect for charcuterie boards, snacking, or to toss into winter salads.