Harvest Tour Cracks Open the Story of Oregon Hazelnuts
Oregon hazelnut growers are expecting a record-breaking harvest this year totaling 52,000 tons, a 63 percent increase over last season. With great bounty comes great opportunities. To increase domestic awareness and demand for Oregon hazelnuts’ distinctive flavor, size and quality, the Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board turned to FLM Harvest to strengthen industry and foodservice relationships by hosting an all-day hazelnut tour in the Willamette Valley. Food professionals from leading manufacturers and foodservice operators were invited to explore firsthand what makes Oregon hazelnuts so special.
In mid-September, just days before harvest and with trees swelling with fresh hazelnuts, attendees started the day in an orchard. Attendees learned about how hazelnuts are grown and harvested, and what makes Oregon the leading region for U.S. hazelnut production.
The Willamette Valley is the only place in the world to get the highest production with the least amount of inputs for hazelnuts,” explained Shaun George, owner of Northwest Hazelnut Company. “We’ve got coastal mildness and great balance of sunlight and rainfall, so Oregon really is the perfect environment.
Afterward, attendees geared up for a processing facility tour. Here, guests were able to see the journey of Oregon hazelnuts post-harvest, from sorting to packing.
Later, we challenged guests to create their own dishes incorporating hazelnuts in the incubator space at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center by exploring the versatility and unique flavor profile of Oregon hazelnuts.
Among the spread was Oregon hazelnut crusted chicken breasts atop a green and lentil salad with lemon and brown butter vinaigrette; ricotta cheese pancakes with hazelnut kernels, golden raisins, mascarpone and pancetta; and chocolate hazelnut brown sugar granola.
From orchard to kitchen, attendees gained insights on the hazelnut growing process, harvesting season and use within the culinary industry.
It was very interesting to learn all about the farming and processing of the nuts and to think about the various different applications for us as chefs and operators,” one attendee concluded. “I did a side-by-side tasting of the nuts I brought back from the trip against the ones we are currently using, and the entire group agreed the Oregon hazelnuts tasted far superior.