My Nephew from California came to visit us here in North Carolina. We decided to take a hike along the Reddies River Greenway that provides calendar picture quality views. As we walked, his face lit up and he walked over to some bushes growing on the bank alongside the trail. After a brief inspection of the leaves he pronounced that “these are hazel nuts”. I was both surprised and delighted at the news.
As shown in the photo, the leaves are teardrop in shape with a jagged edge. The nut is enshrouded in a leafy collar that must be removed to expose the full nut in it’s beauty. When completely ripe, the exterior shell of the hazel nut must be cracked open and removed to obtain the meaty food within. Hazel nuts are high in nutrition and is one of the main ingredients in the popular “Nutella” spread. The nut producing season will vary in each region but usually peaks sometime in September. I have included a photo of the early-season plant showing the catkins (blossoms) so that it can be recognized next year if you miss it this season.
I was grateful on many counts that my nephew came to visit, but learning more about my environment from a West Coast resident was a real surprise.