Hot spell helps generate the good oil for hazelnut growers in southern New South Wales
Courtesy of ABC Rural News
Sifting through wombat dung is just one of the tasks for hazelnut grower Craig Anderson who is enjoying a good harvest at Batlow in southern New South Wales.
The recent intense hot weather has brought the crop on early with Mr Anderson spending his days sweeping the fallen nuts from around the base of his 2,800 trees.
What is similar to a mini street sweeper attached to the front of a quad bike, he weaves his way along the rows picking up everything in his path.
This includes wombat dung, leaves, grass and the hazelnuts.
“Anything that is on the orchard floor gets picked up in those wheels. It is a big job getting those separated,” Mr Anderson said, before heading back to the sorting shed with a load.
The load is tipped on to tarpaulins laid out in the sun, where the rubbish is sifted from the nuts.
The nuts are then taken into the shed and in 50 kilogram lots, laid out on what is best described as single beds with a wire mesh base slightly raised from the floor.
“We spread the nuts out. The mesh allows air to flow through making sure the nuts get a good chance to dry and you don’t have any moisture,” Mr Anderson said.
“They dry pretty nicely over the next month or two. They can stay there for one to two years and maintain good quality as long as they are kept nice and cool.”
Each week Mr Anderson carries out a taste test, and when ready they can then be put into the stainless steel drum which is the sorting machine.
This is about four metres in length with holes ranging in size from 18 mm to 24 mm.
The drum is set on a slope and as it rotates the nuts are poured in at the top, the different sizes falling through the various sized holes.
Muesli makers favour the smaller ones as they are not required to cut them, while the large hazelnuts are sought after by confectioners.
One of those who seeks out Mr Anderson’s hazelnuts is prominent Canberra confectioner and pastry chef Bruno Ehrensperger.
“Compared to the imported hazelnut, they have a lot more natural oil. The quality is much higher, the size was amazing the flavour superb,” Mr Ehrensperger said.
“After 32 years in business we can finally source locally-grown hazelnuts which beat anything imported.”
The majority of imported hazelnuts come from Chile, but Mr Ehrensberger argues the local product has a far better oil content.
He also uses the hazelnuts to make meal which is used in his Australian shortbread cake.
Mr Anderson also has a regular clientele who have moved from northern Europe to Australia and are also attracted to his larger variety.
They purchase large bags of the nuts which are then often consumed raw as they sit around at home after a meal chatting.
He said this was something that many from the northern hemisphere have done traditionally.
The variety known as Ennis is also his favourite because of its sweetness.
It is the dominant hazelnut originating from the US. Other varieties that he grows include Barcelona and Butler.