Hazelnuts

Nocciola di Giffoni (Giffoni hazelnut)
Hazelnuts have always been present in Campania; so much so that this region is said to be have the oldest history of hazelnut cultivation in Italy. The old name for the hazelnut tree, “avellano”, derives from the ancient city of Abella (present-day Avella), in the province of Avellino. From the third century BC onwards, numerous Latin writers and poets, from Cato to Virgil and Pliny, attest to its presence in Campania and in the excavations in Herculaneum there is a brightly coloured fresco portraying hazelnuts. We have to wait until the Middle Ages, however, to find definite information about specialised hazelnut growing in Campania.
Until the middle of the last century, hazelnuts were exported from the port of Naples to France and Holland and were so important in the Kingdom of Naples that, at the end of the seventeenth century, there were special offices to measure the nuts. In the Irno and Picentini valleys in the province of Salerno, the Tonda di Giffoni (Giffoni Round), one of the best Italian varieties, originates and grows. Thanks to its excellent quality, it achieved the well-deserved IGP recognition in 1997. Already towards the end of the eighteenth century Vincenzo De Caro, a historian from Salerno, wrote about his homeland, the Giffoni area: “it is known to all that the hazelnut tree flourishes wonderfully in most areas of our property”. A happy encounter that gave rise to a hazelnut with extraordinary morphological and organoleptic characteristics. This hazelnut has all the best qualities of a product for industrial processing, especially its shape and the ease with which it can be peeled. The Tonda di Giffoni is round, with a minimum calibre of 18 millimetres; the shell is medium thick and light brown with dark streaks. The shelled seed is round with white, firm and aromatic flesh, an internal skin that is easy to remove and a flavour that consumers particularly like. It resists well to roasting and ensures excellent quality products (pasta, chopped nuts and whole hazelnuts) mainly used for high quality confectionery, which is why it is in such high demand by this industry. The Giffoni hazelnut is still widely cultivated today, especially in its area of origin, the Irno Valley and the Monti Picentini, where there are the 12 communes of the IGP label. It is cultivated on a surface area of 3,000 hectares that produce an average of 70,000 quintals of hazelnuts per year (about 10% of national production) that ripen in the last 20 days of August, with a marketable production of about 7 million Euros. The profitability of this hazelnut makes it an ideal crop for exploiting modest hillside resources. Only 10% of the production of the Giffoni hazelnut is absorbed by direct consumption. All the rest is swallowed up by the confectionery industry and used in the preparation of a vast range of products where the hazel-nut is important not only for its aroma and flavour but also for its energy value. As well as being, together with chocolate, a fundamental ingredient for nougat, gianduiotti (hazelnut chocolates) and nut brittle, our hazelnuts are used whole, ground or in paste form, for fillings, biscuits, cakes and pastries.

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