Hazelnuts have an exotic flavor and distinctive texture which make them perfect for more ostentatious uses, such as in chocolates and confections. Hazelnuts are a nut with nutritional substance making their heart-healthy qualities perfect for a healthy snack or use in a variety of healthy dishes. There are more than 100 varieties of hazelnuts grown throughout the world. More than 70 percent of the world crop comes from the Black Sea coastal area of Turkey and agricultural areas lying outside of Istanbul. Hazelnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, protein, and fiber. Recent research also shows that hazelnuts are one of the highest natural sources of antioxidants. A similar study found them to have one of the highest Proanthocyanidin (PAC) contents among all superfoods” and the second highest among nuts. Turkish hazelnuts generally grow ripe between the beginning and the end of August, depending on the latitude of the field. Timely harvest is done by picking up the hazelnuts with leaves that fall to ground when the branches are shaken off. Another method of harvesting is the one where the hazelnuts are picked one by one from the branches.
After being collected from the fields, hazelnuts are blended on the same day or a few days later depending on the field status and laid to make a bed of 10-15 cm thickness to be pre-dried under the sun until their leaves turn brown. After drying, hazelnuts are separated from their leaves using harvesting machine (thresher) and laid over canopies in thin layers to be dried under the sun. Total period of drying, including the pre-drying, can be maximum 15-20 days depending on the weather conditions. Drying naturally and under the sun is an important factor that gives the Turkish hazelnut its special taste. Turkish hazelnuts are categorised into two in terms of quality, such as Giresun and Levant. Giresun quality are fat hazelnuts grown in the entire province of Giresun and fat hazelnuts grown in Beşikdüzü, Vakfıkebir, Çarşıbaşı and Akçaabat towns of the province of Trabzon, which are more or less similar to Giresun quality. These are the highest quality hazelnuts in the world. These are the hazelnuts that have the highest level of skin separation among all types in the world. Levant quality is the common name given to all hazelnuts that are grown in regions other than the region of the Giresun quality hazelnut. Called Levant Akchakoca, Levant Ordu, Levant Trabzon or Levant Samsun depending on the place they are grown, these hazelnuts have a lower level of fat than the Giresun quality hazelnuts but a higher level of fat than those grown in other countries and a much better taste.
It has been mentioned in historical documents that hazelnuts were produced 2300 years ago in the Black Sea coast on the north of Turkey and it is known that hazelnuts have been exported from Turkey to other countries for the last 6 centuries. Turkey, which is one of the few countries in the world with favourable weather conditions for hazelnut production, accounts for 75 percent of the global production and 70-75 percent of the exportation. Hazelnut fields are widely spread in the Black Sea coasts of Turkey and have been located within 30 kilometers inland from the coast. In the western Black Sea region which starts at Zonguldak east of İstanbul and extends eastwards over the entire Black Sea region like a green strip lying between the sea and the mountains all the way practically to the Georgian border. Four million people directly or indirectly derive a livelihood from the hazelnut production in Turkey, which boosts the socio-economic importance of hazelnut. Turkey has a distinguished place among the hazelnut producers of the world, thanks to its high quality, and maintains its leading position in production and exportation.
Besides being consumed as snack both in Turkey and in the world, about 90 percent of hazelnuts are used in roasted, whitened, minced, sliced, powdered and pureed form. And is used as a side-ingredient in chocolates, biscuits and the confectionary industry, in the making sweets, pastries and ice-cream as well as in meals and salads. With a background of about five thousand years, the hazelnut has bestowed great benefits on humankind through many others ways such as its shell and wood. The hazelnut shell is used as a very valuable and high calorie fuel particularly in hazelnut growing areas in the country.
Additionally, hazelnut wood is used in making baskets, walking sticks, chairs, fences and hand tools. Some types of hazelnut are grown as decorative plants in parks and gardens. Hazelnut leaves and fruit leaves are used as fertilizer. Hazelnut oil is made from the excess amount of hazelnut. Crude hazelnut oil is refined to be used in meals and hazelnut pulp is used as additive in the animal food industry. Source: Turkish Hazelnut Promotion Group (FTG)
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