Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wild oat

When I took this picture, the sun was shining over the fields and the wild oats appeared to be golden just like in the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin in which the miller boasts that her daughter can spin straw into gold.

Avena fatua field on Samos

Avena fatua (L. 1753) known as the common wild oat, is a species of grass in the oat genus. Avena (feminine noun) is the Spanish word for oat and fatua means delusive, misleading or deceptive. A. fatua looks quite similar to the cultivated oat Avena sativa.

Avena is a genus of plants in the grass family Poaceae and they are collectively known as the oats. They include species like A. sativa which have been cultivated for thousands of years as a food source for humans and livestock. All oats have edible seeds, though they are small and hard to harvest in most species.

Among the oats, the common oat A. sativa is the most cultivated cereal grain of commercial importance. Four other species of Avena are grown as crops of minor or regional importance. The wild ancestor of A. sativa and the closely related minor crop Avena byzantina is the Aavena sterilis which grew in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. A. byzantina, a minor crop in Greece and the Middle East is introduced in Spain, Algeria, India, New Zealand, South America, etc.

Top A. sativa growing countries are Russia and Canada.

About 17 species of Avena occur in the wild that are known as wild oats or oat-grasses.

A. fatua is a typical oat in appearance, a green grass with hollow, erect stems 30-120 cm tall bearing inflorescence of panicles (much branched) with pedicelled (stemmed) spikelets (tight masses of grain). However, A. sativa, the cultivated oat, has denser panicles and the florets do not readily separate and shed.

The leaf blades are dark green, up to 1 cm wide and up to 40 cm long and rough due to small hairs, with a membraneous ligule (the thin outgrowth at the junction of leaf and stem) 1-6 mm long and often irregularly toothed sheaths (the leaf base when it forms a vertical coating surrounding the stem) smooth or slightly hairy, especially in younger plants.

As a specific trait of the Avena species, the lemmas (bracts enclosing the grain) have 2 to 3 awns (long bristles) arising from the back that are 3 to 4 cm long. The awn of the A. fatua seed twists into a helix (spiral) on drying and untwists when wet, thereby drilling the seed into the soil.

A cosmopolitan grass species, the wild oat A. fatua has been introduced to most of the temperate regions of the world, especially where cereals are grown. It is believed to have originated in Eurasia and has been associated with the cultivation of oats and other cereals since the early Iron Age. There are two hypotheses about the origin of A. fatua. The first, most widely accepted hypothesis states that A. fatua originated from the cultivated A. sativa, which is derived from A. sterilis. The reverse hypothesis suggests that A. sterilis and A. fatua are ancestors of A. sativa. A. fatua and its subspecies are well adapted to the life cycle and growth of spring cereals, but are also abundant in winter cereals.

Wild oats growing alongside cultivated oats in agricultural fields are considered nuisance weeds competing with crop production. Being grasses like the crop, they are difficult to remove chemically; any standard herbicide that would kill them would also damage the crop. A specific herbicide must be used. The costs of this herbicide and the length of time it must be used to reduce the weed is significant, with seeds able to lie dormant for up to 10 years.

A. fatua is also common in other rotation crops, on pasture, in vineyards and on wasteland. It is especially common in the following crops: wheat, barley, rye, oats, rice, maize, potatoes, oilseed rape, sugar beet, sugarcane, sorghum, cotton, tea, peas, lentils, alfalfa, soy beans, flax and sunflowers.

In the northern hemisphere, A. fatua germinates mainly in spring and to a lesser extent in autumn. It has been reported to germinate over a wide range of temperatures (5-30°C), with optimum germination around 15°C.

Many subspecies of A. fatua requiring different climatic and soil conditions have been identified. Other species of Avena are not as widespread as A. fatua, but they are also troublesome in some countries. The whole species seems to be troublesome wherever cereals are grown in locations with an annual rainfall of 375 to 750 mm. A.fatua grows on nearly all soil types. It forms a large root system with a high uptake of phosphorus and nitrogen. It has an annual life cycle and produces up to 1000 seeds per plant. (


The wild oat A.fatua is one of my familiar weeds that I’m accustomed to seeing frequently everywhere I go. When its dry panicles turn yellow it glows more noticeably in the sun.

As a species we humans have been merciless about the endless demands we make on nature and our indiscriminate use of means to obtain what we want. I dedicate this post to the generous bounty of the astonishing planet Earth that we belong to. May it sustain all life for millions of years to come.

Rolled oats-oat kernels that have been de-husked, steamed and then rolled into flat flakes under heavy rollers before being stabilized (disrupting rancidification and the germ so that it can’t sprout) by being lightly toasted.

And…. I say goodbye to my precious readers, now that I am taking a break from recounting details and memories about my favorite plants to perhaps begin anew at a later date.

Monday, January 2, 2017


Common names for this flower are daffodil or narcissus. I enjoy the double-flowered narcissi, the varieties that have extra petals.

Narcissi-the plural form of the common name narcissus causes some confusion.

The exact origin of the name Narcissus is unknown, but it is often linked to a Greek word meaning intoxicated and the myth of the youth of that name who fell in love with his own reflection. According to the myth, Narcissus, the beautiful youth, became so obsessed with his own reflection in water that he drowned and the narcissus plant sprang from where he died. The name Narcissus was not uncommon for men in ancient Europe.

There is, however, no evidence for the flower being named for the youth. Narcissus poeticus, one of the first narcissi to be cultivated, grows in Greece and it was described to have an intoxicating fragrance. Pliny (Gaius Plinius Secundus [AD 23-AD 79] who was a Roman naturalist among other things) wrote that the plant was named for its fragrance not the youth. Furthermore, there were accounts of narcissi growing long before the story of Narcissus appeared.

                                    The Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dali based on Ovid’s tale of Narcissus and Echo

It has also been suggested that daffodils bending over streams represent the youth admiring his reflection.

Narcissi were well known in ancient Greece and Rome, both medicinally and botanically, but the flower was formally described by Carl von Linné in his Species Plantarum (1753). Linné used the Latin name 'narcissus' for the plant which was preceded by others actually.

Narcissus is a genus of spring perennial plants in the Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis) family. The flowers are generally white or yellow, with either, uniform or contrasting colored tepals and corona (the outermost whorls of the flower parts are called tepals when the sepals and petals are not of unequal appearance. The corona is the ring of structures forming between the tepals and the stamen).

With a long history of breeding, thousands of different cultivars of narcissi have been created. For horticultural purposes, narcissi are classified into groups covering a wide range of shapes.

Estimates of the number of species in Narcissus have varied widely, from anywhere between 16 and almost 160 even in the modern era. The evolutionary history within the genus of Narcissus still remains relatively unsettled. “Taxonomy-the naming-has been complex and difficult to resolve due to the diversity of the wild species, the ease with which natural hybridization occurs, and extensive cultivation and breeding accompanied by escape and naturalisation. Consequently, the number of accepted species varies widely.” (

The double-flowered narcissi that I prefer have names like bridal crown, double cheerfulness, white lion, narcissus alba, double star or Wintston Churchill. A Churchill narcissus? Double narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ is a fragrant, late-blooming variety registered in 1966. It was named as a tribute to the United Kingdom’s Winston Churchill.

The double-flowered trait is often noted alongside the scientific name with the abbreviation fl. pl. (flore pleno, Latin for ‘with full flower’). The double-flower is in fact the first documented abnormality in flowers. It was first observed thousands of years ago.

                                                                                 Narcissi, Hortus Eystettensis 1613

‘Double-flowered’ describes varieties of flowers with extra petals, often containing flowers within flowers. In some double-flowered varieties all of the reproductive organs are converted to petals and as a result, they are sexually sterile and must be propagated through cuttings. Many double-flowered plants have little wildlife value as access to the nectaries-glands producing a rich liquid-is typically blocked because of the mutation.

Narcissus is a genus of ‘perennial herbaceous bulbiferous geophytes’ which means after flowering the plant dies back to an underground storage bulb and re-sprouts when the time comes.

The plants are scapose, having a single central leafless hollow flower stem (scape). Several green or blue-green, narrow, strap-shaped leaves arise from the bulb. The plant stem usually bears a solitary flower, but occasionally a cluster of flowers-an umbel.

                                      Photographs:Tülay Karayazgan

I don’t know how they determine this but it is noted that the genus Narcissus arose millions of years ago. Although the Amaryllidaceae family are predominantly tropical or subtropical as a whole, Narcissus occurs primarily in the Mediterranean region, with a center of diversity in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). The species are native to meadows and woods, river banks and rocky crevices. Narcissus has been naturalized in the Far East and Great Britain which are believed to be early introductions. Different species grow in many places from Europe all the way to the Near East. Historical accounts suggest narcissi have been cultivated from the earliest times, but became increasingly popular in Europe after the 16th century and by the late 19th century were an important commercial crop in the Netherlands.

In Turkey narcissus is farmed in Karaburun and Mordoğan in the Aegean Region. Mostly the double-flower varieties are grown and they usually bloom at the end of December, beginning of January.

The beauty lives on……

                                   Narcissus 'White Lion' (div. 4. Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, España. March 2010 by Cillas)

                                        Narcissus 'Bridal Crown' (Div. 4 March 2005 by de:Benutzer:BS Thurner Hof)

Thursday, December 1, 2016


                                                          Kestaneci-a chestnut vendor in Istanbul with his brazier.

Roasting chestnuts dates back centuries. Chestnuts can be peeled and eaten raw, but it is difficult to peel off the pellicle-the crusty, hairy skin inside the leather-like outer skin of the nut. The pellicle closely adheres to the seed itself, following the grooves present on the surface of the fruit. The poorer the quality of the nut, the more difficult this is to peel. Removing the outer shell and the pellicle is easier if the nut is boiled or roasted. Also, roasting sweetens the nut's raw, harsh flavor.

Chestnut is the edible seed of the chestnut tree.

The chestnut fruit has a pointed end with a small tuft at its tip called fiamma (flame in Italian), and at the other end, a hilum-a pale brown attachment scar. In many varieties, the fruit is flattened on one side.

The three common groupings of chestnuts according to species are European, Asian (Chinese and Japanese), and American chestnuts. Sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, is the only European species.

Chestnuts should not be confused with horse chestnuts (genus Aesculus), which are not related to Castanea and are named for producing nuts of similar appearance, but which are mildly poisonous to humans, nor should they be confused with water chestnut (family Cyperaceae), which are also unrelated to Castanea and are tubers of similar taste from an aquatic herbaceous plant (

Castanea sativa is a species of flowering plant in the oak and beech family Fagaceae and it is native to Europe and Asia Minor. A long-lived deciduous tree, chestnut is cultivated throughout the temperate world.

The Latin sativa means ‘cultivated by humans’.

Chestnut flavors vary slightly from one species to the next and can vary with growing conditions, but in general the flavor is somewhat sweet and rather similar. Chestnut-based recipes and preparations are making a comeback it seems.

C. sativa attains a height of 20–35 m and has a wide trunk. The bark often has deep furrows running spirally in both directions up the trunk. The tree requires a mild climate and adequate moisture for good growth and a good nut harvest. Would you believe that it can live more than 2,000 years in natural settings?

                                                                                  Photograph:Dieter Simon, 16 January 2006

Chestnut wood which is used to make furniture is of light color, hard and strong.

                                                                      A chestnut tree in Istanbul

The oblong-lanceolate, boldly toothed leaves are 16-28 cm long and 5-9 cm broad.


The flowers of both sexes are borne in 10-20 cm long, upright catkins, the male flowers in the upper part and female flowers in the lower part.

In the northern hemisphere, they appear in late June to July, and by autumn, the female flowers develop into spiny cupules-burs that deter predators during growth and maturation of single to multiple brownish nuts and are shed during autumn.


Chestnut is one of those plants that has a long and complex history. Once again we rely on Wikipedia for the following interesting information.  (

The sweet chestnut was introduced into Europe from Sardis in Asia Minor (today Sart in the Manisa Province of Turkey). Evidence of its cultivation by man is found since around 2000 BC. Alexander the Great and the Romans planted chestnut trees across Europe while on their various campaigns. It was introduced into more northerly regions, and later was also cultivated in monastery gardens by monks. A Greek army is said to have survived their retreat from Asia Minor in 401–399 BC thanks to their stores of chestnuts. Communities which had scarce access to wheat flour relied on chestnuts as their main source of carbohydrates.

The tree was a popular choice for landscaping in England, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. C. sativa was probably introduced to the region during the Roman occupation. More recently, the tree has been planted as a street tree in England, and examples can be seen particularly in the London Borough of Islington.

With a tree grown from seed, maximum production of fruit may begin after 10 to 20 years depending on genetic material, but a grafted cultivar may start production within five years of being planted.

Chestnuts need to be picked when they are still sweet, when their burs have turned brown and have opened enough to expose the nuts inside them. A tarp can be laid under the chestnut tree. The chestnuts still in their burs can be knocked off the tree with a wooden pole if necessary.

For the best quality and size, chestnuts should ripen on the tree until they fall, and then be picked up/harvested promptly. If they stay on the ground too long they may dry excessively. Nut drop usually occurs from mid-September through mid-October.


Chestnuts are packed with minerals-manganese, potassium, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, iron-and vitamins, mainly vitamin C, but also vitamin B6, thiamin, folate, and riboflavin. Unlike other culinary nuts, they have very little protein or fat, their calories coming chiefly from carbohydrates. They have no gluten and they are high in fiber.

We can’t talk about chestnuts and not mention marron glacé-candied chestnut. This sweet appeared in chestnut-growing areas in northern Italy and southern France shortly after the crusaders returned to Europe with sugar. Cooking with sugar allowed creation of new confectioneries.

A candied chestnut confection is thought to have been made around the beginning of the 15th century in Piedmont, among other places. But marrons glacés as such, with the last touch of glazing, may have been created only in the 16th century. Marrons glacés are an ingredient in many desserts and are also eaten on their own.

The French refer to chestnuts as ‘châtaigne’ or ‘marron’. Both terms refer to the fruit of the C. sativa. However, marron tends to denote a higher quality, larger fruit that is more easily peeled.

Marron glacé is not easy to make. The first step is to blanch the chestnuts and peel them. Next, a syrup is prepared with fine sugar and water. The peeled chestnuts are added to the syrup and simmered for 7-8 minutes. Then they are left in the syrup overnight. The following day the chestnuts are boiled in the syrup for 1 minute, then cooled and this boiling and cooling process is repeated 2 or 3 times over the next couple of days until all the syrup is absorbed. It doesn’t end there. They are then spread on a tray covered with baking paper and popped into a preheated oven (70°C) with the oven door open for 2 hours or until they are firm.

This is all easier said than done. That is why marrons glacés need to be bought from a very reputable maker.

Candied chestnuts are a specialty of Bursa, Turkey, where they are called ‘kestane şekeri’-chestnut candy.

Today, China is the top grower of chestnuts followed by Turkey, Italy, South Korea and Bolivia.

Surprisingly, I did not come across any definitive information on how the tradition of eating chestnuts during the Holidays and on New Year’s Eve came about.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Even if they didn’t amaze me like many other plants, I was nonetheless lovingly aware of zinnias as a child. Mostly, I noticed their variety of colors when I came across them; white, yellow, green, orange, red, purple, or lilac and more.

Zinnias are popular garden flowers because of their wide range of colors and shapes and they are easy to grow from seeds. They will also reseed themselves each year. The garden zinnia was bred via hybridisation from the wild form. Zinnias bloom throughout the summer months and they are drought tolerant.

The more blossoms are cut, the more they grow and re-bloom.

     Zinnia elegans

double fire Zahara zinnia

Photographs: Gülçin Kori

These days, zinnias have become very trendy. They have been to space too. On Jan. 16, 2016 NASA astronaut Scott Kelly revealed to the world that his bright orange zinnias had blossomed on board the International Space Station.

Robert Z. Pearlman ( Editor, January 21, 2016) posted that just a few weeks earlier, the zinnias, which were part of the NASA plant growth experiment had come close to dying due to a break out of mold. With the revised care plan by NASA botanists on the ground and Kelly's own green thumb in orbit, things turned out well.

Kelly’s blooming zinnias were not the first flowers grown in space though. Four years ago, astronaut Don Pettit had grown some vegetables and his sunflower had bloomed modestly. There have been numerous prior attempts at growing things in space.

Zinnia is a genus of plants of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family Asteraceae. They are native to scrub and dry grasslands in an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, with most diversity in Mexico.

The genus was named by Carl von Linné after the German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn, 1727–59 (who described the species now known as Zinnia peruviana in 1757 as Rudbeckia but Linné realized that it was not a Rudbeckia, another genus also in the sunflower tribe).

Zinnia peruviana was introduced to Europe in the early 1700s. Around 1790 Zinnia elegans was introduced and those plants had a single row of ray florets which were violet. In 1829, scarlet flowering plants were available under the name 'Coccinea'. Double flowering types were available in 1858 from India and they were in a range of colors including shades of reds, rose, purple, orange, buff, and rose. Over 100 cultivars have been produced since selective breeding started in the 19th century.

Zinnia elegans or elegant zinnia is one of the best known zinnias. It is native to Mexico but it is grown as an ornamental in many places and naturalized in many parts of the world. Its height ranges from 15 cm to 1 meter. It has solitary flower heads about (5 cm) across.

Zinnia angustifolia is another Mexican species. It has more delicate flowers than Z. elegans-usually single, and in shades of yellow, orange or white.

Zinnias are annuals, shrubs, and sub-shrubs. Most species have upright stems. They typically range in height from 10 to 100 cm tall. The leaves are opposite and usually stalkless (sessile), with a shape ranging from linear to ovate, and a color ranging from pale to medium green. Zinnia flowers have a range of appearances, from a single row of petals to a dome shape.

This is ‘Zinnia’, a beautiful spring driven kinetic sculpture by Clayton Boyer that will quietly run about 40 minutes on a full wind.

All butterflies and hummingbirds love zinnias and many gardeners add zinnias to their gardens specifically to attract them.

My brother Aydın’s zinnias look lovely. Swallow tail and monarch butterflies visit his zinnias as well as birds and hummingbirds. Zinnias are edible so we could all try some.

Monday, October 3, 2016


Ayvayı yedim!

‘Ayvayı yemek’, literally ‘to eat the quince-ayva’ in Turkish, is a sarcastic slang term used to indicate any troublesome situation or malevolent incident that may have already occurred or to be avoided in the future. This usage refers to the rather dry and sour aftertaste the quince may leave in the mouth.

I’m expressing that ‘I’ve already eaten the quince’, that is, I’m intimidated by the task of talking about the quince which I find intriguing like all the other wonderful fruits nature offers us.


To enjoy eating raw quince, one has to have acquired the taste and also, be able to discern the good tasting quince from the unpleasant tasting one so as not to experience what the expression ‘I ate the quince’ implies. The quinces are too astringent before they are sufficiently bletted.

High in pectin (a polysaccharide made of multiple chains of sugars that make up carbohydrates), in many countries around the world the quince is eaten cooked. They are peeled and roasted, baked or stewed. Quinces are also used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding. The term marmalade, originally meaning quince jam, derives from ‘marmelo’, the Portuguese word for the quince. Quince marmalade is one of my favorite fruit preserves.

Here is a recipe for the delicious desert called the ‘quince sweet’ from Turkey.

Ingredients: 3 quinces, ½ cup or a little less sugar, a stick of cinnamon, ½ cup or a little more water to cook in and a large bowl of water to immerse the uncooked quince during preparation, juice of half lemon.
Directions: To prevent the quinces from browning during preparation, add plenty of water and the lemon juice into a deep bowl. Halve the quinces and hallow out the middle parts with the pits and place the halves in the bowl of lemon water as you go along. Save the pits to be used during cooking to give the quince an attractive red color.

When all the halves are peeled, arrange them in a wide pan with the smooth sides facing up. Add the cinnamon stick and the pits into the pan. Pour in the ½ c water. Distribute the sugar evenly on each piece of quince. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for 1-1.5 hours until the quinces soften and change color. Do not open the lid until the cooking is done. Let the quinces cool for 3-4 hours before serving.

Kaymak-a creamy dairy product, and grated pistachio nuts go well with the quince sweet. Walnuts or hazelnuts are favored also. Author:E4024

Kaymak: “Kaymak is customarily made in Central Asia, some Balkan countries, Turkic regions, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The traditional method of making kaymak is to boil the milk slowly, then simmer it for two hours over a very low heat. After the heat source is turned off, the cream is skimmed and left to chill (and mildly ferment) for several hours or days. Kaymak has a high percentage of milk fat, and it has a thick, creamy consistency.

The word kaymak has Central Asian Turkic origins. Shops in Turkey have been devoted to kaymak production and consumption for centuries. Kaymak is mainly consumed today for breakfast along with the traditional Turkish breakfast. It is traditionally eaten with baklava and other Turkish desserts, fruit preserves and honey.” (

Back to our fruit; the quince is native to rocky slopes and woodlands in South West Asia, Turkey and Iran, yet it can be grown successfully at latitudes as far north as Scotland. Turkey is the top producer followed by China.

The quince-Cydonia oblonga is the sole member of the genus Cydonia in the family Rosaceae (which also contains apples and pears, among other fruits). The quince tree is a small deciduous tree that bears what is called a ‘pome fruit’ in botany, after the Latin word for ‘fruit-pōmum’. Pome fruits have a core of several small seeds, surrounded by a tough membrane. Apples, pears, loquat, medlar are also examples of pome fruits, grown from spring blossom and harvested from late summer through to late autumn.

The immature fruit is green with dense grey-white pubescence, most of which rubs off before maturity in late autumn when the fruit changes color to yellow and acquires a hard and perfumed flesh.

The quince is bright golden-yellow when mature and 7 to 12 centimeters long and 6 to 9 centimeters across. It is similar in appearance to an apple (Cydonia oblonga v. maliformis) or to a pear (Cydonia oblonga v. piriformis). Most quinces grown in Turkey are of the second kind (with names like Limon, Demir, Ekmek or Bardak).


The quince tree is also grown for its attractive blossoms and other ornamental qualities. The tree grows 5 to 8 meters high and 4 to 6 meters wide.


The flowers, produced in spring after the leaves, are white or pale pink, 5 cm across, with five petals. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, 6–11 cm long, with an entire margin and densely pubescent with fine white hairs.

Here are some interesting facts Wikipedia gives us about the quince:

The quince requires a cold period which is called vernalization* (below 7 °C) to flower properly. The tree is self-fertile; however, its yield can benefit from cross-fertilization. The fruit can be left on the tree to ripen further, which softens the fruit to the point where it can be eaten raw, but if that is the case they should be picked before the first frosts.

Among the many cultivars grown in Turkey, ‘Smyrna’ was first recognized in 1887. It stores longer than other varieties.

Cultivation of the quince may have preceded the apple culture. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. It was with a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite.

Plenty more is told about the past of this fabled fruit.


* Vernalization (from the Latin ‘vernus’-of the spring) is the acquisition of a plant's ability to flower in the spring by exposure to the prolonged cold of winter.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


I remember getting fresh hazelnuts in the summer months and eating them right out of the paper bag the street vendor or the green grocer provided. Thus, I decided to be on the lookout for them this summer and finally, towards the end of July, I found a green grocer displaying some in front of his store in our neighborhood in Istanbul.

You can bite into fresh hazelnuts and easily break their shells with your teeth. They are oh so sweet, moist and meaty.

Now, after having rejoiced about my memories of eating fresh hazelnuts, I need to take a pause here so that I can explain my misconception about them; these are in fact a poorer quality of hazelnuts not worthy of commercial exploit which are therefore consumed only as appetizers while they are fresh. I am aghast!  I only found out about this distinction while writing this post and there will be more about it further down.

Ordinarily, hazelnuts ripen in August. They are harvested by shaking the nuts off the branches and gathering them from the ground by hand, or picking them directly off the tree.

Fresh hazelnuts are sometimes sold in their green sheaths or involucre. Often the vendors un-sheath the nuts before presenting them to the customers.


The shape and structure of the involucre, and also whether the plant grows into a tree or a shrub are important in the identification of the different species of hazel.

The first three of the following examples of hazelnuts categorized according to their involucre, grow in Turkey:
• Nut surrounded by a soft, leafy involucre, multiple-stemmed, suckering shrubs to 12 m tall.
         Involucre short, about the same length as the nut
            -Corylus avellana: Common hazel, Europe and western Asia.
         Involucre long, twice the length of the nut or more, forming a 'beak'
            -Corylus maxima: Filbert, southeastern Europe and southwest Asia
• Nut surrounded by a stiff, spiny involucre, single-stemmed trees to 20–35 m tall.
         Involucre moderately spiny and also with glandular hairs
            -Corylus colurna: Turkish hazel, southeastern Europe and Asia Minor
         Involucre densely spiny, resembling a chestnut burr
            -Corylus ferox: Himalayan hazel

Also, when we look into the characteristics of culinary nuts-dry, edible fruits or seeds that usually have a high fat content-we learn that hazelnuts are placed under the category labeled ‘true nuts’ or ‘botanical nuts’. The other three culinary nut categories are 'drupes' (e.g. almonds), 'gymnosperm seeds' (e.g. pine nuts) and 'angiosperm seeds' (e.g. peanuts).

Hazel trees (Corylus) are a genus of about 20 species, mainly deciduous trees and some large shrubs, that are all native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Hazelnut is their seed. The nuts of all species of Corylus are edible, however the species Corylus avellana is grown the most due to its higher production rate, and the fact that it has many cultivars.

The genus name Corylus comes from the Greek ‘krylos’, the word for hazelnut. “The scientific name avellana derives from the town of Avella in Italy, and was selected by Linnaeus from Leonhart Fuchs's De Historia Stirpium Commentarii Insignes (1542), where the species was described as ‘Avellana nux sylvestris’-‘wild nut of Avella’.” (

The genus is usually placed in the birch family Betulaceae. Wikipedia tells us that some botanists split the hazels with allied genera into a separate family Corylaceae.

Here are some interesting facts about the leaves, flowers and the nuts of the hazel plants.

Corylus avellana

Leaves: Hazels are deciduous. This means the leaves drop off in the fall and new leaves emerge in the spring. The leaves are rounded, about 6-12 cm long and 4-10 broad, with soft hairs on both sides, and they also have a coarsely doubly-serrate margin, meaning the leaves have forward pointing teeth (serrations), and each tooth has smaller serrations on it.

Flowers: Hazelnut trees are one of the few trees that bloom and pollinate in the late winter before the leaves emerge. The flowers on the hazelnut are monoecious, that is they have both male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers on a hazelnut are long, pale yellow catkins 5-12 cm long. The female hazelnut flowers are tiny red flowers that hide in the buds of the leaves and only their 1-3 mm long styles peak out. Wind carries the pollen from male catkins to a tiny red female flower, where it stays dormant until May when the nut begins to form.

Fruit/Nuts: The fruit of the hazelnut tree is actually the nut. Hazelnuts are cross pollinated. So, just as I think I’m getting a grasp of the facts about hazelnuts, I come across this matter of cross pollination. In the case of hazelnuts, cross pollination means two different varieties of trees are needed for the tree to produce nuts. About 6-10% of the trees in an orchard are pollinizer trees.

All varieties of hazelnuts require cross pollination in order to produce nuts, consequently, every planting requires two or more varieties. The cultivars are self-incompatible. There must be enough genetic difference between the pollen providing variety (male), and the main nut producer (female) for fertilization of the flower, and subsequent production of a nut, to occur. Thus pollinizer selection is very important.

I’m thinking, for the growers to keep track of which varieties of trees to keep and what genetic changes take place when the trees are pollinated by varieties of pollinizers, must require a resident geneticist on the farm.

The nuts grow in clusters and are about 1-2.5 cm long and 1-2 cm in diameter. Each nut has a protective involucre-husk that covers all or part of the nut, depending on the variety. The nuts are borne in tight clusters of 3-8 together, with the involucres fused at the base.

The nuts mature late August, early September. The developing nuts are green. When they mature, the nuts turn a chocolate brown or hazel color. The nut falls out of the husk-when ripe, about 7–8 months after pollination.

Two popular cultivars-variety of a plant that has been created or selected intentionally and maintained through cultivation-of hazelnuts are,
Corylus avellana var. avellana, distribution: Europe to Causasus
Corylus avellana var. pontica, distribution: N. Turkey, W. Trancaucasus

Hazelnut is one of the most important nut crops in the world and has its origins in central Anatolia or Asia Minor (alternate geographical names for the Asian territories of Turkey). Wild species are found in Anatolia which have provided the source for today's cultivated varieties.

Research into hazelnut production in Turkey indicates categorization according to shape.


Round Hazelnuts (Corylus Avellana):These are spherical hazelnuts with approximately the same length, width and thickness. They are high quality hazelnuts. They have high seed yields, as well as high fat and protein rates. All types that can be easily separated from skin and whitened belong to this group.

In this group, ‘Giresun Fat Hazelnut’ (Black Sea Region) is the highest quality type in the world.

Pointed Hazelnuts: This is the type with the length a little longer than the width and the thickness. These hazelnuts produce more scrap when breaking. Therefore, they are mostly marketed in shells. They have types called Sivri and İncekara.

Almond Hazelnuts: This is the type with the length much longer than the width and the thickness. These are generally big and showy but have low quality. They have two types called Circular Almond and Flat Almond. They are not suitable for shelling, therefore they are not dried and are mostly consumed fresh domestically.

Apparently, what I have been eating and loving when fresh are of this kind.

Turkish hazelnuts are yet again categorized into two groups for quality: Giresun and Levant.

Giresun Quality: In the Black Sea Region of Turkey, fat hazelnuts are grown in the entire province of Giresun and in several towns of the province of Trabzon. These are the highest quality hazelnuts in the world. They have the highest level of skin separation among the types.

Levant Quality: This is the common name given to all hazelnuts that are grown in regions other than the region of Giresun and specific towns of Trabzon. Called Levant Akçakoca, Levant Ordu, Levant Trabzon or Levant Samsun depending on the place they are grown, these hazelnuts have a lower level of fat than the Giresun quality hazelnuts but still a higher level of fat and a better taste than those grown in the other hazelnut growing countries.

The top countries producing hazelnuts are Turkey (70% of world production) followed by Italy (18% of world production), Spain, USA and Greece. Turkey is the number one world exporter.


Hazelnut is an important nut crop in the world. Besides protein, hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Despite their limited commercial growing area, hazelnuts are the 4th largest tree nut crop in the world, behind cashews, almonds, and walnuts.

Not based on the amount of production necessarily but according to preference around the world, I would call almond the diamond of nuts. Next, the most appreciated nuts would be hazelnut, peanut, and walnut-the ruby, emerald and sapphire of nuts.  Duly, this would place all the other nuts in the category of semi-precious nuts/gem stones. Wouldn’t you agree?