Italian hazelnuts: a fruit that is widely spread in Italy, and that is one of the many agri-food heritage of our country.
Probably, the cultivation of hazelnuts – Corylus avellana – would date back to the Roman era – which used the plant also for wishing happiness – but we also know that the Greeks magnified the therapeutic qualities of hazelnuts, that they used to treat cough and as a remedy against baldness.
However, the introduction of this crop in the Alta Langa and, subsequently, in the entire territory of the Piedmontese Langhe dates back to the early 1900s, thanks to the growing interest in a fruit with extraordinary characteristics and nutritional properties.
Where are hazelnuts produced in Italy?
The cultivation of hazelnut, detta “corilicoltura” has spread especially in the countries of the Mediterranean basin. Here there are climatic and environmental conditions particularly favorable to its spread.
Today, Italy represents the second production area in the world, and is distinguished by the presence of some particularly valuable varieties. These are those cultivated in the Lazio area, in the Avellino area and, of course, in Piedmont. The most appreciated varieties of hazelnuts are Hazelnut Giffoni IGP (Campania), Tonda Gentile Romana DOP (Lazio), Tonda gentile Trilobata IGP (Piedmont) and Siciliana o Nostrale (Sicily).
Italian hazelnuts: the beneficial effects
The hazelnut, widely used by the food industry, is a food easily digestible, able to provide a high energy and caloric value, and is rich in noble nutrients.
First, in fact, the hazelnut is rich in oleic acid, one of the fatty acids with the power to eliminate LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol. In addition, it is an excellent source of vitamins, proteins, mineral salts – potassium, phosphorus, calcium – antioxidants.
Rich in vitamin E, which is an extraordinary antioxidant, are also a source of phytosterols, important substances in the prevention of diseases of the cardiovascular system, and are distinguished by a high concentration of fiber, particularly indicated in the reduction of the risk of colon cancer and in the protection of the intestinal bacterial flora.
The beneficial effects of hazelnuts, therefore, concern the ability to promote the feeling of satiety in diets for the reduction of body weight; the reduction of risks related to cardiovascular disease, guaranteed by unsaturated fats and phytosterols, that remove bad cholesterol by increasing the good one; regulate blood pressure thanks to the intake of potassium; help to limit the onset of diabetes and balance the glycemic level; reduce the risk of cancer of the digestive tract and pancreas.
The only nutritional aspect to keep under control in the intake of hazelnuts is that linked to the high caloric intake, which is why moderate consumption is recommended, and preferably away from the main meals. The best time to taste these delicious fruits is certainly the period between the end of the summer season and the first part of autumn, when these fruits ripen.
Overall, 100 grams of hazelnuts contain:
5.30 grams of acquacirca
15 grams of protein,
70 grams of fat
16.7 grams of carbohydrates,
11 grams of fibre
15 milligrams of vitamin E,
680 milligrams of potassium
290 mg of choline.
The use of hazelnuts in Italian cuisine
The food use of hazelnuts is very wide and articulated, and also includes the production of olio, which can be used instead of extra virgin olive oil.
In addition to being consumed naturally, they are also used in the preparation of sweets such as chocolate, nougats and ice cream, and in a wide range of dietary foods and aimed at the health of the body, in the field of macrobiotics and certain types of diet.
Of particular nutritional value is the daily consumption of hazelnuts, which can be used for the preparation of milk, spreads, snacks and desserts. Butter puree can replace butter, while hazelnut flour can be used in many recipes and preparations.
To avoid the decay of the fats contained, it is better to buy hazelnuts still in the shell, but in the case of shelled ones it is better to keep them in sealed and preserved containers – even for a long time – in the refrigerator, so as to avoid contact with oxygen and heat sources.
Recipe based on Italian hazelnuts: the kisses of checkers
Did you know that the original recipe of Baci di Dama includes hazelnut flour and not almond flour? Here below the original recipe of the Kisses of Dama Tortona: try them, they are delicious!
150 grams of hazelnuts without skin
150 grams of icing sugar
150 grams of flour 00
150 grams of butter
150 grams of dark chocolate
Procedure: Finely chop 150 grams of hazelnuts without cuticles with 150 grams of icing sugar. Add the 150 grams of flour and 150 grams of butter at room temperature and work by hand. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least half an hour. Form small, small, little more than a hazelnut with wet hands and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, trying to flatten them slightly. Bake at 180 ºC for 15 minutes. Do not touch the biscuits until they are completely cold. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie and combine two biscuits at a time with the melted chocolate in the middle.