Cobnuts are a fresh hazelnut grown in Britain. They are harvested while the outer husk is still green and the nut is sweet and juicy, and it's sold between mid-August and October. The cobnut is very distinctive looking with a green husk over its shell. The nut itself is medium in size and oval in shape; it is mildly sweet with a nice crunch. A cobnut is used like any other nut—eaten as a snack, sprinkled on salads, and folded into baked goods. A cobnut costs about double the price of other hazelnuts.
Place of Origin: Kent, England
Same Family As: hazelnut and filbert
What Are Cobnuts?
Cobnuts, filberts, and other kinds of hazelnuts are all in the hazel genus Corylus. The cobnut is a cultivated variety of hazelnut introduced in the 19th century in Kent in southern England; hence, it is often commonly known as a Kentish cobnut. Underneath the green husk, which is easy to remove, is a brown shell that when young is easy to crack and take off as well. Once the nut begins to dry, the shell toughens, yet it only needs a sharp tap to break. Cobnuts are delicious to eat fresh from the shell when young; once a little older, it is best to use them as you would common hazelnuts.
There are several cultivars of the cobnut, including Purple Filbert, Merveille de Bollwiller (also called Hall's Giant), Kentish Cob, Butler, and Ennis.
Cobnut vs. Hazelnut and Filbert
Since these three nuts are all part of the same genus, they are very similar to each other. Cobnut is a hazelnut that is harvested and sold fresh, and filbert is a type of cobnut where the husk completely encloses the nut. Their names are interchangeable, causing much confusion.
Before using cobnuts, the green husks need to be removed, which is accomplished by simply pulling it off. The shell underneath is then cracked and easily pulls away. What is left is fresh cobnut, which is often enjoyed simply, sometimes with a sprinkling of salt. But it can also be added to salads, into a streusel topping, or as part of a crumble for a fruit cobbler. It can take the place of pine nut in a pesto sauce or even replace almond in a classic macaron recipe. It can also be sprinkled into a meringue mixture before adding to the dessert.
How to Cook With Cobnut
Once the nut is husked and shelled, it can be used whole or chopped. Always chop cobnuts at the last minute, as they goes stale if chopped too soon. It can be eaten fresh or roasted before incorporating it into a recipe. For recipes calling for roasted nuts, place the shelled cobnuts on a baking sheet and roast at 300 F for up to an hour until hard and browned (they will become soft at first and then harden)— and they need to be checked often to make sure they aren't burning.
What Does It Taste Like?
When young, fresh cobnuts have a taste very similar to coconut, "green" yet nutty. It has a subtle sweetness with slight citrus notes and a touch of acidity. As they mature, they turns golden and becomes much sweeter and juicier. When roasted, cobnuts take on an earthy flavor reminiscent of caramel, malt, and even popcorn.
Cobnuts are a unique alternative nut to use in cooking. If you can't find a recipe including cobnuts, any recipe that calls for hazelnut will work.
- Butternut Squash Ravioli With White Wine Sauce (Replace the hazelnuts with cobnuts.)
- Turkish-Style Revani Semolina Cake (Use cobnuts instead of hazelnuts.)
- Hazelnut-Chocolate Bites (Use whole cobnuts in place of the hazelnuts.)
Where to Buy Cobnuts
Cobnuts are mainly available in the U.K. in some supermarkets, farmers markets, and select greengrocers, but they can also be ordered online. Fresh cobnuts are available starting in the middle of August when the nut is harvested; once October arrives, the husk and shell begin to turn brown and the nut's flavor has fully developed. After that, only processed cobnut is available. Cobnuts are sold by weight.
Since cobnuts are fresh, they need to be stored in the refrigerator. Before placing in the vegetable drawer, remove any loose husks, making sure not to take off any green ones that are firmly attached. Adding a small amount of salt to the nuts will help to preserve them. When stored properly, cobnuts should last at least four months, if not longer.