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As It Was: Filbert and Hazelnut, Two Names for the Same Fruit

A Hudson’s Bay Company retiree, Sam Strictland, planted the first cultivated filbert tree in Oregon in 1857 in Scottsburg near the mouth of the Umpqua River.  About 20 years later, French immigrant David Gernot, planted 50 imported trees in the Willamette Valley.

Oregon’s present-day bountiful industry traces its origin to 1905 when a University of Oregon graduate and farmer, George Dorris, planted 200 filbert trees outside Springfield. 

Filbert trees produce filberts or hazelnuts, two names for the same thing.  The tree belongs to the genus Corylus avellana.

Oregon grows 99 percent of the country’s hazelnuts, dwarfed by Turkey’s 70 percent share of world production.  Oregon exports half its crop to Europe and Asia.

The Hazelnut Industry Office in Aurora, Ore., says “filbert” is the correct name for the tree. The Oregon Filbert Commission decided in 1981 to emphasize calling the fruit “hazelnut,” and the Oregon Legislature named it the official state nut, by either name, in 1989.

This year’s harvest is over, but the filbert surprisingly blooms in mid-winter.

Sources: Saker, Anne. "In a nutshell, us." Oregon Live the Oregonian, OregonLive.com, 16 Mar. 2019, www.oregonlive.com/oregon/2009/02/in_a_nutshell_us.html. Accessed 23 Oct. 2019; "Hazelnuts Fun facts." Oregon Hazelnuts, The Hazelnut Industry Office, 2019, oregonhazelnuts.org/about/. Accessed 23 Oct. 2019; "Oregon Almanac: Nut, State to Shoes, Oldest." Oregon Blue Book, Oregon Secretary of State, 2019, sos.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx. Accessed 23 Oct. 2019.

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Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.