PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Another popular Oregon agricultural harvest is underway — it’s hazelnut time!
The trees hazelnuts grow on are ideally suited to Oregon’s climate, according to experts. Hazelnuts are grown all over the world, but more than 99% of America’s hazelnut production happens right here in Oregon.
Skyrocketing in popularity due to Nutella’s hazelnut spread, the Oregon hazelnut is expanding its reach. The nut is now infused into everything from coffee creamer to candy bars and increasingly as an on-the-go snack. More trees and good growing conditions are leading to what some expect to be an unusually large yield — otherwise known as a “bumper crop” — of hazelnuts this year.
“Part of it is just these newer varieties that have been planted are starting to mature, so they’re starting to produce,” Brenda Frketich of Kirsch Farms explained. “The acres that are planted are starting to produce a lot more and actually, we had a great pollination season.”
Hazelnuts contribute about $70 million to Oregon’s economy every year. Frketich is a third-generation hazelnut farmer at Kirsch Family Farms. She says as production grows — the hope is hazelnuts will become a more prominent part of more regional cuisine.
At the retail level, the hope is hazelnuts can become a go-to seasoned snack to challenge almonds and other popular nuts.
“That will come as we get more domestic marketing,” Frketich said. “That will come as we are sort of able to get into those markets like Costco and continue to Safeway and Albertson’s and Wilco and all those places that allow you to have that grab-and-go mentality.”
Hazelnuts pollinate themselves, are not bee intensive and the state has the perfect climate. Oregon State University has even helped engineer a blight-resistant tree — fueling Oregon’s agriculture economy with the harvest of Oregon-grown hazelnuts.
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