The commercial hazelnut industry has flourished in the Willamette Valley for more than 100 years. About 800 Oregon farm families grow hazelnuts on 67,000 acres. Many of the farm families are third- and fourth-generation orchardists, working the same orchards as their pioneering predecessors. They are passionate about protecting the productivity of the land and trees for generations to come.
The industry is currently in an expansion mode with well over 3,000 acres being planted each year. Growers are finding hazelnut production to be an excellent use of land in the Willamette Valley.
Quality distinguishes the Oregon-grown hazelnut from imports. Achieving and maintaining the highest level of quality is the overarching – and uniting – principal of the industry. Our growers’ success can be measured by the demand for Oregon hazelnuts across the globe today.
The Hazelnut Tree
The hazelnut tree is amazing. While other plants are “sleeping” during the winter months, the hazelnut is busy pollinating. Pollen is spread by the wind and rain to very tiny red flowers. After that the trees take a short break before they begin their spring growth. In late spring the nuts begin to form. By mid summer green nuts in clusters can be seen throughout the orchards.
Late summer the green nuts turn to the “hazel” color they are known for and in early fall, they separate from the husks and fall to the orchard floor. Growers sweep them into rows and then pick them up with a harvester. As they are harvested the nuts move through a series of air legs that sort out any lighter debries. The nuts are quickly shipped to one of many wash and dry operations found throughout the valley.
Once cleaned, dried and sorted by size, they are either sold in the shell or they move on to be cracked or further processed.
The Pacific Northwest is one of the few places in the world where the nuts are dried very quickly as many areas depend on the sun. This helps ensure the wonderful quality of Oregon hazelnuts.