The Hazelnut is a small nut primarily grown in Turkey, Spain and Italy. However, in the past few decades hazelnut farms have flourished in both Australia and New Zealand.
The nuts are particularly suited to New Zealand's South Island with its crisp, frosty winters, well drained soils and long, warm growing seasons.
Fresh hazelnuts are a good source of energy, high in monounsaturated fats and very low in saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are a good source of vitamins A, E, B12, and amino acids. And the best thing of all -- they are cholesterol free.
There are several varieties of hazelnuts grown in New Zealand with one of the the most common varieties being the “Whiteheart.”
Whitehearts are extremely popular with confectioners due to their small size and subtly sweet and creamy flavor. While the hazelnut industry is still in its infancy, the nut's popularity is steadily increasing at local farmers' markets where the public can't get enough of its delicious flavor.
Hazelnuts can be enjoyed in a variety of ways including roasted, baked, in stuffings, in sweets, soups or salads or simply raw. Raw hazelnuts are also cold pressed like olives to make a delicious, rich oil often used in salad dressings. The oil is even used by some as a moisturizer and massage oil as it is prized for its skin firming properties.Fresh nuts can be stored for up to a year however they must be kept in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. They can also be frozen. Cooked or roasted nuts have a shelf life of approximately six months.