We are one of the world's largest producers of hazelnuts and the hazelnut harvesting period varies from area to area, especially in Piedmont, where many people still work hard to keep up the quality of the world-famous PGI hazelnuts, which are in great demand in the confectionery industry. A hazelnut grove can still be a good agricultural activity that requires little work but guarantees a certain margin of income even for families with smaller plants.
Although the hazelnuts are not particularly demanding to grow, the same cannot be said for the harvesting of the hazelnuts, which requires great care: harvesting is perhaps the most important part of the whole production process, as it must be done when the hazelnuts are ripe and before the moisture from the ground spoils the texture. The best time of year is autumn, particularly from September to mid-October, when the ripening cycle that began at the end of August ends.
It is quite easy to see when you can start harvesting hazelnuts: look at the fruit and you will notice that its shell is shrivelled and fallen to the ground, while the outer skin is brown and has an almost woody texture; they also come off the branches easily and fall to the ground. The process involves actually shaking the plants and gathering the fruit on the ground. Hazelnuts can be harvested in two different ways, depending on the size of the farm and the property. Large farms use trailed or self-propelled pneumatic suction harvesters that are able to separate the fruit from the shell, twigs and debris. On family farms, on the other hand, cages are used that roll over the ground and pick up everything that comes their way, thanks to their steel wires that open when they detect an obstacle and close again immediately afterwards.
To preserve hazelnuts, they should be left to dry in the sun during the day and removed at night for about a week, so that they can expel excess water. Alternatively, they can be dried in the oven at 40/50° with the door half open. Once the process is complete, they can be kept for long periods in a cool, dry place where there is a change of air and away from sources of light.