How to ID, Harvest and Enjoy Wild Hazelnuts

There are two species of hazelnuts, both native, that grow in the wild in our area typically in woodland borders or thickets. Sites receiving more sunlight are more likely to produce more nuts.

How to Identify –

American Hazelnut (Corylus americana), which look like the filberts you will find in grocery stores, and Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). The husk surrounding the individual or, more often, cluster of nuts is the easiest way to distinguish between the two species.

Your targets will look like these:

This is the nut of American Hazelnut.

American Hazelnut

Read more about American Hazelnut from a sample page from one of my wildflower guides.

This is the nut of Beaked Hazelnut.

Beaked Hazelnut

Read more about Beaked Hazelnut from a sample page from one of my wildflower guides. Read even more info about Beaked Hazelnut.

How to Harvest –

I usually 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.

Each is ripe when the shell has turned to a brown color, which occurs before the outer husk turns brown.  However, do not pick any nut if its shell is green, cream or whitish in color – it is simply not yet ripe.

When picking them, I recommend wearing leather gloves (or rubber dishwashing gloves) because of the tiny sticky hairs on the husks.  If you don’t, your fingertips can become quite painful to the touch – it may feel like you’ve been handling fiberglass insulation.

Read more about how to recognize these two species and how to harvest the nuts.

I remove the husk from each nut while I am picking them. However, you can also let your harvest air dry for several days; doing do should enable you to peel the husk off of each nut more easily.

After you remove the outer husk, I suggest that you put all of your harvested nuts (still in shell) into a sink filled with 2-3” of water. Do so for two reasons: (1) remove any floaters, and (2) rinse any debris from the shells. You should discard the floaters because none of those shells contain a ripened nut. Floaters result from either the nut not forming (perhaps due to a dry summer period) or there is a larva inside that is devouring the nut and will soon make its exit by burrowing through the shell!  Let your husked harvest air dry for at least a couple of weeks before cracking open – doing so will help ensure the nut separates easily from the shell when you crack them open and it will be ample time for any larvae to make their escape! If you discover any such critters, simply find the shell with a small hole in it and throw both of them away. All of the other nuts should now be ready for cracking.

I find use of this type of nutcracker works best –

For all of us who can enjoy these tasty nuts, please view these recipes for ideas and inspirations of how to enjoy them.

Read how to roast and skin hazelnuts. Read about another method to roast hazelnuts.

Enjoy Your Harvest! –

View nutrition information regarding hazelnuts.  Unfortunately, some people have an allergic reaction when eating hazelnuts.


I recommend adding a cup of chopped hazelnuts to your favorite shortbread cookie recipe.

A few years ago, I enjoyed this bountiful harvest!

Hazelnut harvest (American on left, Beaked on right)

For those of you interested in perhaps growing your own hazelnut shrubs, look to these planting guides for more information –

Happy trails!