It is well known that I am not the most world savvy person (a gross understatement). It’s pretty basic stuff that I know, that I am comfortable with and what stays floating around in my fairly small circle of knowledge. But I recently happened to come upon a tidbit that surprised the heck out of me and made me investigate further.
Growing up we had all kinds of garden fruits, vegetables, fruit bearing trees and nut trees. Something always needed to be sown, trimmed, weeded, harvested or dug up. We had late summer nuts of filberts, English walnuts and Black walnuts.
The filberts, now called hazelnuts by many, were and still are my favorites. Easy to gather because they usually fall before the ground gets fall rains that make the ground muddy. They have no messy husks that stain fingers and clothing with unforgivable tannin like walnuts. But most important, they have thin shells that crack easily to expose the whole nut. But these nuts have always held a secret to me. We always seemed to have two kinds of filberts on the farm, ones that looked like this picture and ‘special’ ones that were produced by only one tree and they were referred to as pollenizers or pollinizers. I liked the taste of the pollinizers best.
I found loads of information about filberts when I tried to research the special nuts that I am so fond of, Oregon Hazelnut Growers gave great insight to the dual names but did not give me a clue to pollenizers.
There’s truly no wrong answer. “Filbert” is the correct name for both the tree and nut. The name is of French origin, and filbert trees were likely first introduced into Oregon by early French settlers. Some thought “filbert” was derived from St. Philibert, as August 22 is dedicated to him, corresponding to the earliest ripening date of filberts in England.
“Hazelnut” is the name coined by the English and applied to the native species by early settlers. In 1981, the Oregon Filbert Commission decided to conform to the common standard and began emphasizing “hazelnut.”
Regardless of what name you call it by, this is one nut that’s been revered for centuries. According to a manuscript found in China from the year 2838 B.C., the filbert took its place among the five sacred nourishments God bestowed on human beings. In olden times, the filbert was used as a medicine and a tonic. More than 1,800 years ago, Greek physician Dioscorides emphasized the properties of the filbert:
“It cures chronic coughing if pounded filbert is eaten with honey. Cooked filbert mixed with black pepper cures the cold. If the ointment produced by mashing burnt filbert shells in suet is smeared on the head where hair does not grow due to normal baldness or to some disease, hair will come again.”
While interesting, it did nothing but send me down rabbit holes, I never did find out anything about the special nuts that I had coveted since childhood.
When going out to dinner with some long time friends, I happened to pull a small bag of pollinizer filberts out of the freezer as a gift. When I handed the bag to them, they both called out “Ennis!” They had purchase the elusive nut many years ago at Pike’s Market in Seattle and had not seen them since.
I found that the Ennis is a more desirable nut when it comes to flavor and texture, but is a more rare variety and it has its issues.
According to FP (Fresh Plaza)
… the amount of Ennis is dwindling. “There is less acreage of Ennis now, which is a premium variety but highly susceptible to the Eastern Filbert Blight….
My special nut is not only scarce, but may be soon lost forever from a naturally occurring disease. While the blight has affected 100’s of acres of filberts in the Willamette Valley since 2008, my trees are not yet bothered by the problem but it seems to be only a matter of time. Until then I will enjoy my special pollinizers as long as possible.