These wild nuts grow in clusters on the hazel tree in temperate zones around the world. The fuzzy outer husk opens as the nut ripens, revealing a hard, smooth shell. Italy, Spain, France and Turkey lead the way in hazelnut production. Until the 1940s, the United States imported most hazelnuts; however, they're now grown in Oregon and Washington. Also called filberts and cobnuts, particularly when cultivated, these sweet, rich, grape-size nuts are used chopped, ground and whole in all manner of sweets, as well as in savory foods such as salads and main dishes. Hazelnuts are usually packaged whole, though some producers are now also offering them chopped — a real timesaver. Hazelnuts have a bitter brown skin that is best removed, usually by heating them at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes, until the skins begin to flake. By placing a handful of nuts at a time in a dish towel, then folding the towel over the warm nuts and rubbing vigorously, most of the skin will be removed.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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