Down in our Nuttery on the farm, a platt of hazelnuts is shaping up rather nicely. The different cultivars we’re growing – including a purple-red Filbert, the Purpurea’ – are ready to be picked by the chefs and chopped, toasted or shaved fresh over garden vegetables.‘Hazelnut’ is a generic term for Corylus fruits (or nuts!) and comes in different varieties. Filberts (Corylus Maxima) have a distinctive soft papery husk that entirely protects the nut; but we’re mostly harvesting Cobnuts (Corylus Avellane) – ovoid shaped hazelnuts with a sweet, juicy flavour and pleasing crunch. Best eaten fresh rather than dried.

Native to Somerset, hazelnut is the most successful nut for the unpredictable UK climate, with the trees setting a good crop whether the summer has been dry or drizzly.

In our platt, a wildflower meadow has been allowed to grow between the trees, encouraging a rich biodiversity that benefits the trees and the locals. Well-rotted compost means the trees are fed and free from weeds, so there’s no need to use any pesticides or herbicides. Look closely into their branches and you might spot the endangered nocturnal hazel dormouse (Muscardinus Avellanarius) snoring away in its nest of woven grass during the day.

Like many trees in Somerset, the hazel tree is rich in folklore as well as wildlife. The tree itself symbolises wisdom and knowledge, and in ancient mythology, its wood was used to make wands that imparted this wisdom to their user. 

In more recent history, 14th September is an important date for the hazelnut. Up until World War I, Holy Cross Day or Holy Rood Day was an official school holiday where children would get the day off to pick hazelnuts (though most would meet their fate as a conker replacement in conker fights).

We suggest you get outside and do the same – go nutty for some foraging on your next walk. 

Muscovado & Cobnut Tart

(Serves 8)

“This can be made with regular hazelnuts, but it’s much more fun to work up an appetite picking cobnuts.” Alan Stewart, Estate Head Chef

  • 240g ground hazelnuts
  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 230g butter, cubed
  • Splash of cold water
  • 140g muscovado sugar
  • 2tbsp Kingston Black Pomona
  • 500ml cream
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 100g chopped cobnuts (or hazelnuts if not available)

To make the pastry:

Combine the dry ingredients.

Add cubed butter and mix into breadcrumbs.

Bring together with a splash of cold water.

To make the filling:

Place sugar in a pan over a gentle heat and start to caramelise.

Add cobnuts, deglaze with the Kingston Black and slowly whisk in (it’s fine if there are lumps). Add salt and slowly whisk in the cream.

Remove from heat and whisk in the egg yolks. Allow to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Line a 20cm tart case with the pastry.

Bake for 10 mins with no filling, then turn the heat down 140°C and continue baking until the filling is set but still has a slight wobble.