grow on deciduous trees (Corylus avellana) that are native to many
parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Australia is free of many of the
major hazelnut pests and diseases found overseas.
The family Betulacae, or Birches,
were dominant at the end of the last Ice Age and hazel trees have
many adaptations for surviving in cold climates. They require adequate
winter chill and a period of warming to initiate flowering which
occurs while the tree is leafless in winter. Trees bear male and
female flowers, but flowers on the same tree and of the same variety
are not compatible (ie. incapable of self pollination).
Hazels were coppiced for the production of wood for hundreds of
thousands of years. Modern propagation by stooling (or mound layering)
is a form of coppicing. Hazel wood was valued as a pliable material
for thatching, constructing wattle and daub houses, weaving wattle
fencing – for enclosing stock, and it is still regarded as
making the best charcoal.
As nuts could be freely gathered from woods, growing for Nut Production
did not become an ‘industry’ until industrialisation
required quantities to supply towns. Development of varieties, selected
for a defined standard of flavour, nut size, shape and blanching
took place in regions that were often very different in terms of
climate or soil. For instance: the long oval Kentish Cobb grows
well on the misty chalk downs of Kent, UK. Round highly flavoured
TGDL prefers high weathered volcanic valleys in the Piedmont region
of Italy. Neither variety performs well in the harsh climates and
old soils of Australia.
Huge food industries around the world rely on the type of hazelnut
they use being consistent in size, shape, flavour, oil content,
blanching ability, and so on. Hazelnuts are traded as a commodity
and described by specifications.
Hazelnuts were brought to Australia by the early settlers, and returning
soldiers and sailors as nuts – some were planted for nut production.
However, seedlings produce nuts that are different from either parent.
(Truffle spore is inoculated into seedlings grown from germinated
hazelnuts.) Seedling trees will produce nuts, but of every shape
and size imaginable, and commercially quite unsuitable.
Commercial hazelnut growers grow nuts from known hazelnut cultivars
that have been propagated by vegetative methods and will always
produce the same quality or specification of hazelnut. Many of the
cultivars available to hazelnut growers in Australia were imported
from hazelnut regions overseas, such as Oregon USA, France, Spain,
Italy and Germany. Most of these imported varieties demonstrate
a proclivity climate or soil similar to that of their region of
Tokolyi Brownfield Cosford, the Australian cultivar, selected by
Imre Tokoli, was the only variety that performed well at all five
trial sites in the Evaluation of Hazelnut Varieties for South-eastern
Australia. Two of its pollinizers are also selections bred for Australian
World Supply today
World demand for hazelnut is increasing
rapidly as health benefits are recognized, and new consumers develop
in former third world countries, due to rapidly increasing population
and levels of disposable income.
World hazelnut supply is falling. Ninety per cent of world hazelnut
production is produced by Turkey and Italy, typically small confectionery
type nuts. Turkey currently produces about 75% of world production.
The Turkish government has ceased subsidizing hazelnut producers
(8 million people are involved in its industry). Turkey’s
marginally productive hazelnut areas will come out of production,
forcing world hazelnut prices up.
In recent years the snack food sector has seen the most rapid growth,
where discerning consumers choose large attractive kernels and eat
hazelnuts for health benefits.
Australian Gourmet Hazelnut’s main crop variety, Tokolyi Brownfield
Cosford (TBC), is an Australian cultivar. Its point of difference
is its high content of beneficial nutrients, Vitamin E and monounsaturated
oils, lack of kernel fault and a unique flavor which is greatly
appreciated by our customers. TBC is the perfect snack hazelnut.
The AGH supplies growers with main-crop trees and compatible pollinizer
cultivars, planting grids. Their performance in the hazelnut orchard,
in the processing shed and on the plate have been developed and
proven over 10 years.