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The Filbert nut is related to the hazelnut, but whether it is considered a unique type of hazelnut or a generic definition of all hazelnuts is up for grabs. How it gets defined may depend on the individual.
In the most accurate definition, filbert nut is one kind of hazelnut that proliferates in Europe. It is known by the scientific name, Corylus maxima , and as an eating nut, it enjoys less popularity than other forms of hazelnuts. Corylus maxima may be slightly smaller in size, tends to grow on shrubs, and are ready to pick in early August, in Europe.
Nuts form in a husk, with usually four or five nuts in each husk, and in appearance they look like most other hazelnuts. They have a coppery brown, mostly round exterior that is quite hard and comes to a point at the bottom. The kernel of the nut has a dark brown exterior and a cream or white interior.
Other types of hazelnuts can be preferred for commercial or large-scale growing than the filbert nut, but especially in America, all nuts that are hazelnuts may be called filbert too. People might buy either a hazel nut or a filbert nut in the store and get approximately the same thing. In truth, whether a person differentiates between the filbert nut as a specific type of hazelnut or thinks of the two nuts as interchangeable, taste, crunch and other delightful features are relatively the same.
Using the more generic definition, the filbert nut has many applications in cooking. The nuts are great by the handful and they can be found alone or in mixed nut cans where they might receive salting and roasting. Unroasted and “raw,” they provide excellent flavor and especially in Europe and places like Australia, they’re a common addition to desserts, breads, and candy.
Certain spreads are made with the filbert nut, including the very popular European Nutella®, a chocolate and hazelnut spread now being marketed more aggressively in the US. Plain hazelnut butter or spread might be used for something as simple as a sandwich or as complex as fancy desserts. The distinctive flavor of the hazelnut is also found in a variety of liqueurs or as flavoring for things like coffee creamers.
Though often thought of as European, hazelnuts are popular in the US; their growing region is somewhat limited. Growers tend to be most often located in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Washington and Oregon. While these growers tend not to focus on cultivating Corylus maxima, the filbert nut crops or hazelnuts they produce are quite well received. Harvest time in the states is usually slightly later than European harvest time.