The historical accounts of Whatcom County, Washington have plenty of good things to say about one John V. Holmquist, a Finnish farmer who left his native country in 1905 to escape the drudgery of his first profession, that of a drug store clerk. He and his father bought a plot of heavily wooded land and set to clearing it for cultivation. Today, that land is known as the home of some of the finest hazelnut products in the nation. Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards has been operating since 1928 when John and his son Anton planted their first hazel trees. The family sells the bounty of their orchard at farmer’s markets all around Washington, including at their table in the Pike Place Arcade.
The secret of Holmquist’s success in the hazelnut business is their focus on the DuChilly variety of the nut. It’s a cultivar unique to Washington state, a hybrid of predominantly European Common Hazel and the mild Filbert Hazel mostly found in Turkey and the Balkan states. The DuChilly is far more versatile than the common hazelnut. While most hazelnuts have a heavy, deeply bitter skin and only a mild flavor, DuChilly nuts have only a thin skin and the meat is naturally sweeter. This means that DuChilly hazelnuts are excellent snacks after just a light roasting, as well as being useful in a variety of other products without necessitating as many additives.
Everyone knows that hazelnuts go great with chocolate, so Holmquist sells several types of chocolate-covered nuts in 6-ounce bags. They also experiment with other flavors, like Lemon Honey and spicy Southwestern. For those who have never gone beyond the standard PB&J, try making a sandwich with hazelnut butter instead. Holmquist’s isn’t too sweet and it has the texture of any proper, organic nut butter.
For those who like to bake but aren’t thrilled with the impact a batch of cookies can have on a strict diet, consider the heart-healthy properties of nut flour. Holmquist makes a hazelnut flour that has a number of unique uses, but one of the finest is the delicious hazelnut cookie. Hazelnut cookies are naturally low-carb and don’t require as much sweetener as a standard batch of grain flour cookies. Check out this Local Dish recipe for a hazel twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie.
Photo credit: Richard Holmquist