I typically begin collecting ripened hazelnuts during the last week or so of August. To wait any longer ensures that the chipmunks and red squirrels (and other foragers!) will have already been there to collect the delicious nuts.
There are two species of hazelnuts, both native, that grow in the wild in our area. American Hazelnut (Corylus americana), which appears similar to the filberts you will find in grocery stores, and Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). Each is delicious and both ripen at that same time – now. The husk surrounding the individual or, more often, cluster of nuts is the easiest way to distinguish between the two species.
This is the nut of American Hazelnut.
Read more about American Hazelnut from a sample page from one of my wildflower guides.
This is the nut of Beaked Hazelnut.
Both hazelnuts are found throughout our area, typically in woodland borders or thickets. Sites receiving more sunlight are more likely to produce more nuts.
Read more about how to recognize these two species and how to harvest the nuts.
A few years ago, I enjoyed this bountiful harvest!
I recommend adding a cup of chopped or grated hazelnuts to your favorite shortbread cookie recipe.