15 September 2000

HAZELNUTS FIND REDDY MARKET

GROWERS of traditional English hazelnuts have cracked one of the most discerning markets for their crop – the native red squirrel population.

Up to 15t of this years bumper cobnut harvest – the biggest since the mid-1960s – will be sent from southern England to animal reserves and estates in northern England and Scotland to give the dwindling red squirrel population a crunchy feast.

"Red squirrels certainly have good taste – fresh English nuts are a hand-picked delicacy that is often eaten with port and cheese," says Kentish Cobnuts Association chairman John Cannon.

Part of Johns harvest is destined for specialist suppliers, who will then sell the nuts to individuals and groups keen to help the squirrels. "They tell us that the red squirrels prefer fresh English hazelnuts hands-down over the dried imported nuts from countries like Turkey, Italy and France," says John.

Anyone who fancies sampling fresh English nuts should be able to get them from good-quality greengrocers, farmers markets or some supermarkets.

"We are urging people to get out there and buy them before our bushy-tailed friends squirrel them away," says John.