The Hazel is deciduous and can be grown either as a multi-stemmed bush or a single trunk small tree. They are hardy and fast growing, reaching 3–8m tall, but can reach as high as 15m. The flowers (single sex catkins) are produced very early in spring before the leaves, the male catkins are pale yellow and 5–12 cm long, and the female ones are very small and largely concealed in the buds, with only the bright-red, 1-to-3mm long stigmas visible. Pollination is done by the wind and pollinator Hazels are necessary for this to be successful.
The edible nuts are 1–2.5 cm long and 1–2 cm diameter, surrounded by a husk which can partially or fully enclose the nut. Ripening from February to April, depending on the variety, Hazels are ready when they fall from the tree. Harvesting can spread over three to four weeks per tree, keeping the ground clear during this time can help with ease of picking the nuts up. Once harvested nuts must be dried and stored in a cool dark place.
Hazel leaves and small branches can also be used as stock fodder/forage, the nuts as pigs or bird fodder and the flowers provide an early pollen source for bees. The Hazel stems are also used for basketry, woven fencing (hurdles), walking sticks, garden stakes, furniture and the frames of coracle boats. The tree can be coppiced, and regenerating shoots can be harvested every few years. However, if nuts are wanted the pruning should be kept light as they bear on strong one-year old wood. Remove any inward growing branches and crossing branches to allow light and openness in the center of the tree/shrub. The Hazel grows best in sheltered areas with fertile soil and consistent moisture levels. They can tolerate frosts but persistent harsh winds will slow their growth.
These are some cultivars which are readily available.
Hazel – Appleby
Low vigour, spreading tree form, moderate suckering, with good yields. Needs pollinator possibly Campanica, Butler, Davianna and Merveille de Bollwiller could be used. Good flavour.
Hazel – Merveille de bollwiller
A large attractive nut. Highly sought-after pollinator. Vigorous grower. Pollinate with ‘Alexandra’. Hardy. Late cropper, ripens April.
Hazel – Whiteheart
Good yields of medium-sized nuts with a clean kernel and excellent flavour. Best hazelnut for processing. Pollinators include ‘Alexandra’ and ‘Merveille de Bollwiller’. Ripens April.