Today, 20 August, is St Philibert or Filbert's Day. Philibert was born into a wealthy Gascon family in 608 AD. He entered holy orders as a young man and in 654 received a gift of land from King Clovis II on which he founded Jumièges, arguably the greatest of the Norman abbeys.
As his Saint's Day coincided with the start of the Norman hazelnut harvest, local people began referring to hazelnuts as 'noix de philibert'. This was Anglicised as 'fylberd' and later 'filbert'.
Despite assertions that filberts are longer and more slender than hazel nuts, technically they are one and the same thing. To confuse matters further, English hazel or filbert trees are sometimes sold as 'cobs'. Most of these are cultivars of an old variety called Kentish Cob. Cobnuts are typically sold fresh rather than dried, which gives them a seasonal market and unique culinary uses.
Filbert, hazel or cob, there's a bumper crop this year and, with luck, there will be some left for us to enjoy after the squirrels have gorged themselves.
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018