Oregon produces virtually all U.S.-grown hazelnuts, 5 percent of the global supply.
“Hazelnuts are grown successfully around the world near the 45th parallel, right where we sit,” says Michael Klein, Hazelnut Marketing Board associate director. “And right here, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, we have the quality of soils, adequate natural rainfall and year-round temperatures ideal for hazelnuts.”
But what really distinguishes Oregon hazelnuts is what happens after harvest.
“Post-harvest handling is what really determines hazelnut quality,” says Klein. “And Oregon hazelnuts are handled at a level exceeded nowhere else in the world.”
Harvested hazelnuts are dried using an indoor dryer – the best method to maintain quality, then go to a processor for additional cleaning, sorting and bagging, or shelling, depending on the buyer’s preference. Then it’s on to the domestic and global market. “People in the United States are turning to tree nuts because of health benefits,” Klein says. “So food manufacturers are including hazelnuts in everything from baked goods, cereals, and flavorings to oatmeal and energy bars.” Hazelnut flour is a good alternative for those with gluten sensitivities.
Northern China is a main export destination, where in-shell hazelnuts are roasted, seasoned and more. “Just like here in the United States, we see the Chinese market looking for more convenience and wanting different types of foods,” says Polly Owen, executive director of the Hazelnut Marketing Board. “Hazelnuts have a distinctive and elegant flavor that really stands out,” says Owen. “Oregon hazelnuts are bigger and tastier than what’s found anywhere else on the market.”