Nocciola Piemonte PGI
The area, within the Langhe zone, included in the hazel register of Piedmont is very wide: it accounts for 50% of the whole Piedmontese hazel area. The Consortium of PGI “Nocciola Piemonte works for the safeguard and development of this product. The hazelnut, and especially a precious niche product like the “Tonda Gentile” variety, has always been a key element for the world confectionery industry, thus it is considered an excellent ingredient. Tonda Gentile is the highest-quality hazelnut in the world and the jewel of the Piedmontese hazel production. So, it has been awarded European Union Protected Geographical Indication status (PGI) that defines the geographical area where this hazelnut can be grown. Its high quality is due mostly to the natural environment: hazelnuts derive benefit from the pure, fresh air of the hills at an altitude of 200 to 700 m asl. Also important is the form of cultivation; in fact hazels are grown in bush form so that growers can look after them with greater care. 
Hazelnuts are also a key ingredient in the typical “torrone” (i.e. kind of nougat) that since the 18th century has been produced with hazelnuts coming solely from the “Tonda Gentile delle Langhe” cultivar. Since this hazelnut must comply with the conditions and requisites dictated by the Regulations, its organoleptic characteristics are wholly preserved; the result is a matchless product whose flavour is particularly enhanced when accompanied by sweet white wines.

Something curious about hazel
Although hazel has always been very important to the agricultural economy of the Langhe, in past times it inspired awe; it was bathed in an aura of mystery since people used to say it was a place of witches’ sabbaths. Its flexible branches (“nizurin” in the local dialect) were employed for making bows or by the dowsers as a diving-rod. The ancients used to celebrate this plant which was symbolized by two intersecting snakes, in the symbol of Aesculapius, the god of medicine. 

Hazel leaves and flowers can be used for preparing an infusion that is very effective for intestinal problems and can purify the vascular system. Application of a compress of powdered bark is very helpful, too.
The oil obtained from the hazelnuts was considered an effective remedy for both baldness and intestinal parasites. Also, in wartime, it was employed in cooking instead of olive oil. An ancient beauty treatment recommended applying hazelnut oil to make one’s skin look younger. The charcoal slack obtained from hazel wood, mixed with sulphur and saltpetre, produced gunpowder. Still today hazelnut shells are excellent heating fuel. 
Hazel growing started by the first half of the 19th century in southern Piedmont, but it was only during the 1930s that it got substantial importance, when some confectioners tried to employ hazelnuts as a ingredient in their sweets. 
Hazelnuts are grown in the Langhe, the province of Cuneo and the adjoining provinces of Asti and Alessandria; throughout this wide area the grown variety is always the same one: “Tonda Gentile delle Langhe”. Over the years it has undergone great improvement thanks to the natural selection guided by man.

Production
The environment conditions of the hazel plantations for the production of “Nocciola del Piemonte” or “Nocciola Piemonte” must be the ones that have traditionally been present in its production area or, anyway, they must give the hazelnuts their own specific characteristics of quality. The plantation layout and cultivation methods must be the ones that are commonly used and referable to cultivation in bush form or, exceptionally, “single-stem”, with a density ranging from 200 to 420 plants per hectare.A maximum density of 500 plants per hectare is allowed in the plantations established before the coming into force of the recognition Decree 2nd December 1993. The cultivation methods as well as pruning and picking systems must be the ones generally in use and, especially for new plantations, must not alter the characteristics of hazelnuts. The maximum yield of hazelnuts per hectare, in the designated hazel plantations, must not exceed 35 kg. Any storage of the product must be carried out in keeping with traditional methods so as to extend marketing.

Characteristics
The “Nocciola del Piemonte” or “Nocciola Piemonte” must comply with the following characteristics when released for marketing.:
The shape of the hazelnut is subspheroidal or partially subspheroidal, three-lobed, with 17 to 21 mm calibres. 
The shell is medium thick, not too glossy and has a moderately intense light-brown colour; it has several, yet not very evident, streaks and its apex is rather tomentose. The kernel may be subspheroidal, tetrahedral or sometimes ovoidal. It is darker than the shell and mostly fibred with a wrinkled surface and more or less evident furrows. The size of the kernel is more variable than the size of the shell. The perisperm is medium thick and very loose after toasting. The texture is firm and crackling. Very fine and persistent flavour and aromas. Shelling yields ranges from 40% to 50%.

Highlights

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