The sky is falling, the sky is falling!
That’s what it felt like this morning as the rain pounded down, bringing with it an avalanche of hazelnuts from the tree in my courtyard. The ground was covered with them, the cat was batting them around like teeny golf balls.
This year the nuts are BIG. Many are still encased in their frilly husks, which always make me think of a teenager dressed for a sweet sixteen party, they’re so frivolous. As I go between kitchen and pantry, which occasions a walk through the courtyard, I stoop to collect the nuts, stashing them in my apron pocket. I have a basket on the kitchen counter where I empty them, a sort of holding area where they’ll stay until I get a chance to rinse them. Today, by mid-morning I had a pound; with this afternoon’s rain and tomorrow’s collection, I’ll have double that.
I didn’t have time to taste one today but I can tell they’ll be juicy, because they’re not quite ripe. Tomorrow I’ll put them on the menu as an aperitif – the lucky people in my class will love them, with a glass of Muscat Sec. I will love them because they’ll offer that pure, fleeting, slightly milky flavor of new hazelnuts which will disappear in a week as they dry.
While they’re new like this the best way to eat them is out of hand. Next week, and for weeks after I’ll shell and toast them, grind them to use instead of a flour in a cake, chop and add them to salads. My hazelnut tree isn’t large, but it is prolific. And this year it promises a more than typical abundance. Now, to stay out of its way as those hard little nuts fall!