How nutty does a state have to be to have an official state nut? Well, we are trying to keep things weird here as you know. Seriously though, the filbert (or hazelnut) is the official nut for the state of Oregon. What’s more, Oregon is the only state to have an official nut. You just got to love the way Oregonians do things just a bit different than the rest of the country.
But do you know the whole story of the Oregon filbert?
The Oregon State Nut?
In 1989 the Oregon Legislature named the hazelnut (Corylus avellana) the state nut. Based on the recognized economic and historical significance of Oregon’s hazelnut farmers, lawmakers designated the hazelnut, or filbert as the Oregon state nut. We think it is a deserving title for many reasons you will see below.
There is a reason that Oregon is nuts over filberts and that’s because Oregon and more specifically the Willamette Valley is the perfect climate for growing hazelnuts and therefore they grow easily and rapidly here. What’s more, 99 percent of the entire U.S. commercial crop of filberts are grown in Oregon, and that’s a lot of nuts, but it actually only results in less than 5% of the total filbert production worldwide. Now you know why you often see the roadside family stands that are selling filberts as you drive on some of the more rural highways around the Willamette Valley.
Some Interesting Facts About The Hazelnut
There are some very interesting facts about the filbert and the flavor that these nuts produce for our coffee and sandwiches. Here are some of the most unique things we discovered about the hazelnut in our research. Which of these would you say is your favorite?
1 – Hazelnuts have a unique texture and an amazing flavor that make them a common ingredient of chefs, bakers, food manufacturers.
2 – Hazelnuts are rich in protein and unsaturated fat.
3 – Unlike wild varieties of hazelnuts, Oregon filberts grow on a trunked tree, which can get up to 30-40 feet tall.
4 – The traditional term for an area of cultivated hazelnuts is a plat.
5 – Nutella is made using hazelnuts. In fact, the worldwide manufacturer of the popular spread is responsible for using 25% of the worlds hazelnut crop.
6 – Hazelnut trees can produce until over 100 years of age.
7 – ODD FACT – The hazelnut blooms and pollinates in the middle of winter, not in the Spring or Summer as you might have guessed. The wind carries pollen from yellow catkins to a tiny red flower then the nut doesn’t begin to form until about June.
8 – In 1858, the first cultured hazelnut tree was planted in Oregon by retired Hudson’s Bay Company employee, Sam Strictland in Scottsburg.
9 – In 1903, George Dorris of Springfield started the first commercial orchard with more than 200 trees.
10 – The Barcelona hazelnut tree is the most common variety grown in Oregon.
Why Are Hazelnuts Called Filberts In Oregon?
To be clear, most of the rest of the world use the term filberts when referring to hazelnuts. So, it’s not really that Oregonians call them filberts and the rest of the world prefer hazelnuts, but more accurately, it’s the other way around. In fact, it is widely believed that the Catholic feast day celebration, which is for France’s St. Philbert is the source of the filbert named nut. The feast is held on Aug. 20m which also happens to be the time that hazelnuts are typically ready for harvest. Due to the coincidence of dates, in Europe, where hazelnuts are very popular, the nuts are known as filberts.
The filbert is grown around the world, most notably in Turkey, Italy, Spain, the USA, and Greece are considered to be the main hazelnut-producing countries. But the king hazelnut producer is Turkey, which is responsible for 70% of the worlds filbert production and 82% of the export of the tasty nut. Following Turkey in a distant second spot in hazelnut production, is Italy. (source)
But since most of US consumers recognize the filbert as a hazelnut, the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board adopted the name “hazelnut” in 1981 to reflect more common term.
Oregon Filbert Production Is Off The Charts
Before you simply brush off the impact of the filbert in the Portland area and across the state, you should really take a look at the astounding numbers associated with this crop in Oregon. We bet you would not have guessed that around 800 Oregon farm families grow hazelnuts on a total of 70,000 acres across the state. That is a huge amount of farm production.
But it gets even bigger. The total value Oregon growers obtained for their hazelnut crop is nearly $70 million on average over the last 5 years. The amazing part of all this is that equates to a total economic impact of more than $150 million in Oregon. No small change!
There is no doubt that what most of us considered about the filbert and its history and impact in Oregon is much more significant. The next time you see a hazelnut, you will now have a deeper respect for the Oregon farmers who grow them and the positive and historical role they play in our amazing state.