No, you don't go to your local supermarket in the Fall and dig through the bulk nut bin.
There is a forager way!
Many people here in southwestern Pennsylvania have no idea that we have wild American Hazelnuts growing around us.
Ask some of your friends and you will see.
If I picked a fresh american hazelnut and threw it down in front of my friends, several of which are outdoorsy types, they would have a hard time figuring out what they are.
Some would figure it out after some pulling apart here and there and some would guess correctly but most would not.
It's sort of neat though that there are so many uninformed people. It allows me the opportunity to fill my bags with another fine tasty nut and not have to wonder, the day before planning a foray, whether they will be picked already.
I keep my hazelnut bush locations secret - well most of them anyway. I might devulge a location or two but that's it. Those bush / shrub / tree locations are a treasured resource, like my butternut tree locations and my morel and sheep'shead mushroom spots.
These will help in the future acquisition of American Hazelnuts.
Writing tablet / logbook / journal
Pen or pencil
GPS ( optional and very helpful but not necessary )
A. Finding American Hazelnuts For Later Picking.
American Hazelnut or American Filbert
First off you need to know that American Hazelnuts really like the sun so that should be uppermost in your mind when starting your search for the bush / shrub / tree.
I say bush / shrub / tree because, on occasion, American Hazelnut's growth habit can have the appearance of any of the three.
American hazelnut has a tendency to grow in clusters because the plant's root system is a rhizome. Rhizomes are horizontally situated underground stem-like growths that send out more roots and shoots as they lengthen over their lifespan.
As a result you very seldom find just one of these shrubs. It's almost always a colony.
In my area, southwestern Pennsylvania, start looking for the plant around mid July. The leaves are at their greenest at that time and the bracts ( nuts ), if there are any, will be at their most clustered and easiest to see.
The leaves are alternate on their stems, dark green on the surface and lighter green underneath. They are toothed on the edges and a bit heart-shaped.
The nut grows inside a bract which is made up of leaf-like material ( the covering is called an involucre ) and shriveled up around the nut as a protecterant.
The bracts can be from a singular one to a group of several.
Start your search by looking for american hazelnuts along country roads, forest roads, country gravel roads, power lines,
right-of-ways, trails, clearings, horse paths, state park and state forest roads and parking areas, along creeks where there is not dense tree cover, etc.
You should be keying in to areas where there is a lot of sunlight.
Because of their congested growth habits the appearance of an american hazelnut bush ( usually a colony ) looks like an unruly clump of leaves just under the height of the first limbs of nearby regular trees.
I would say, based on my experience, that most of the bushes are usually around 7 to 10 feet high.
Once you find your first american hazelnut bunch you will be surprised how easy it will be to spot the subsequent bushes.
I can spot them now as I just drive down country roads at a normal speed.
As you start locating hazelnut bushes it is a good idea to make a record of where they are.
A GPS is a great tool to have. So is logbook.
If you do not keep a record of their locations you will forget some of the spots, I gaurantee it.
Here is an example of what I keep track of in my logbook under the Hazelnut heading:
Location. Describe it as best as possible ( e.g. south end of parking lot B - Laurel Hill State Park )
Permission. Yes. Not needed. Granted, etc.
Patch Size. Bush, Bunch or Patch. ( Bush is small, Bunch is bigger, Patch is a lot )
Access. Easy, treacherous, long walk.
Go To Part 2 - Picking and Processing