The 'Nocciola del Piemonte’ (hazelnut from Piedmont), with its spherical shape, is characterized by a fine and delicate flavour, with a very crisp pulp. Its cultivation has been introduced in the ‘Alta Langa’ area and then has spread across the Piedmont, blending with the oenological landscape of this land. Today, the production of this fruit, almost totally absorbed by the confectionery industry, is concentrated in the provinces of Cuneo, Asti, and Alessandria, in an area between the hills of Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato. The Protected Geographical Indication certification guarantees both quality and authenticity of this product. Since July 2014, this extraordinary land has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
How a flavour is built
In order to preserve this agricultural heritage, the cultivation is carried out with a density between 200 and 500 trees per hectare. The utmost allowed unitary production is set at 3,500 kg per hectare. The gathering is carried out when the ripening of the fruits is complete, that is when they spontaneously leave the tree and fall to the ground. After the harvest, the product is dried either in the sun or by means of warm air dryers, and then stored in thin layers.
There are nearly 3,000 companies and over 50 artisanal or industrial facilities; 1600 certified companies, which produce between 3,000 and 6,000 tons per year, with a value ranging from 10 to 20 million Euros. The production is subjected to important seasonal variations, because of climate, thus it can vary as much as 50% from one year and another.
Excellence for health
Hazelnuts from Piedmont are produced between August and September, but they are marketed throughout the year both in shell or shelled; the high quality of the fats they contains allows their transformation in grain, flour, or hazelnut oil.
The hazelnut from Piedmont has the highest healthy ratio between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats among the different varieties of dried fruit. Recent studies have shown the positive effects of regular consumption of hazelnuts on human health. Oleic acid, the same fatty acid found in extra virgin olive oil, allows maintaining a low cholesterol level. In addition, thanks to its high content of vitamin E, hazelnuts provide a considerable contribution in terms of antioxidant agents.
Not only hazelnut
The companies belonging to the producers association ‘Nocciola del Piemonte’ realize various products exported all over the world. An export that continues to increase from year to year. France, England, Germany, Russia, and the United States are the main destinations, to which in recent years both Arab and Chinese markets have added. The creams prepared with this product, too, are appreciated, both with pure hazelnut and ‘gianduja (Piedmontese nut chocolate)’. The cream prepared with hazelnuts and acacia honey is a product proposed in recent years, as well as dragé, hazelnut covered with a selected dark chocolate; hazelnuts covered in a crisp sugared dress; cakes such as the ‘Nocciolona’; the so called ‘Baci di dama’, two round biscuits joined together by means of a delicious layer of dark chocolate; hazelnut oil, used both in cooking and for some natural therapies, sold in ml 100 and 250 packs.