When can I buy cobnuts?
Cobnuts are seasonal, and are sold fresh, not dried like most other nuts. They can usually only be bought from about the middle of August through to October. Stored nuts may be available from selected larger outlets through to Christmas. At the beginning of the season the husks are green and the kernels particularly juicy. Nuts harvested later on have brown shells and husks, and the full flavour of the kernel has developed.
Where can I buy cobnuts?
Cobnuts can be purchased from some supermarkets, Farmers' markets, and a few good-quality green-grocers. They are also available as pick-your-own, farm gate and mail order from the outlets listed on this website. Not all are registered organic, though many nut growers use few or no pesticides. It is advisable to phone first to check on availability.
How should I store cobnuts?
Cobnuts are fresh, and like many other fresh foods they should be kept in the fridge, for example in the salad drawer. To prevent mould they should not be allowed to sweat. Loose husks should be removed but it is not necessary to take off every one. Do not remove the husks if they are green and firmly attached to the nut. The addition of a little salt helps preserve the nuts. Stored correctly, ripe nuts will keep until Christmas and beyond.
How are cobnuts best eaten?
Cobnuts are delicious fresh on their own. They can also be eaten with other ingredients, such as in a salad; some people like to eat them with a little salt. If they are to be chopped, this is best done shortly before eating them, as they do not keep well once they have been cut.
Cobnuts are also excellent roasted, which brings out their flavour. Roasted nuts can be eaten on their own, or used whole, chopped or ground to flavour pasta, meringues, fruit crumbles, cakes, cake toppings etc. To roast cobnuts, crack and shell them, then cook them on tinfoil or a baking tray in an oven heated to about 150°C, 300°F, Gas Mark 2, for an hour or so; the cooking time depends on how ripe and how dry they are. First they become soft, but do not remove them until they have hardened, but have not blackened. They can also be cooked in a microwave oven; 4 oz of kernels will typically take 6 minutes on a high setting.
What is the nutritional value of cobnuts?
Cobnut kernels typically contain 12%-17% protein by dry weight, and about 10%-15% fibre. Cobnuts are very rich in vitamin E and in calcium, typically containing about 21mg and 141mg per 100g kernel (dry weight) respectively. They provide about 0.4mg and 0.55mg of vitamins B1 and B6 respectively per 100g dry weight.
Can I grow cobnuts in my garden?
Yes - but if you have grey squirrels they may eat them before they get ripe. They will grow in most soils that are not waterlogged.
Cobnuts are largely self sterile - the pollen from a given variety cannot pollinate the female flowers of the same variety. For example, pollen from the catkins of a Kentish Cob tree cannot fertilise the female flowers of Kentish Cob, on the same or a different tree. If you live in the countryside where there are plenty of wild hazels nearby in woods or hedges, then the pollen from these will probably pollinate your trees. Otherwise you will need to purchase two compatible varieties. Some nurseries sell 'twin' trees, with two compatible varieties grafted onto one stem.
The following guidance is based on experience in south-east England and Holland, and is geared to domestic production. Advice on commercial production is available to members of the Association.
Kentish Cob a reliable cropper, relatively hardy, with excellent flavour; also available as Longue d'Espagne; pollinated by Gunslebert, Cosford and Merveille de Bollwiller. This variety will grow throughout much of the UK and is recommended for domestic production.
Gunslebert a hardy, vigorous and very productive variety producing medium-sized nuts; pollinated by Cosford and Kentish Cob.
Merveille de Bollwiller also called Hall's Giant; a hardy, vigorous and productive variety with large nuts; pollinated by Cosford, Butler, Ennis and Kentish Cob.
Butler a large mid-to late-season nut; hardy, vigorous and a heavy cropper; a short-husked variety that de-husks freely when ripe; popular for modern commercial production; pollinated by Ennis, Merveille de Bollwiller.
Ennis a very attractive large round nut with a superb flavour, but tendency to produce a significant proportion of blank nuts limits commercial value; pollinated by Butler, Merveille de Bollwiller.
Cosford this is one of the best-flavoured varieties, with thin-shelled nuts, but it is not a heavy bearer; pollinated by Gunslebert, Merveille de Bollwiller, Kentish Cob.
How do I protect my cobnut trees from grey squirrels?
It is almost impossible to protect cobnuts from being eaten by grey squirrels. Commercial growers obtain a crop because they have so many trees that the grey squirrels cannot eat all the crop before it is ripe. Some parts of the country do not have grey squirrels, for example areas with few or no trees, and Scotland.
Do I need to prune cobnut trees to get a crop?
No. If you do not prune your trees they may grow up to 5-7 metres high, but you should still get a crop of nuts. However, you will not be able to pick the nuts until they are fully ripe and ready to fall to the ground if the branches are shaken.
If you prune the trees, the nuts will be larger and better quality, and you will be able to pick the nuts earlier if you like them at the early, 'green', stage. Advice on how to prune cobnut trees is given in our booklet 'Pruning Kentish Cobnuts'.
The Association also runs annual training courses on cobnut pruning.