The Piedmont hazelnut, “Tonda Gentile delle Langhe” is considered to be one of the finest varieties of hazelnut.
It is valued for its unique shape – almost perfectly round (‘tonda’), its mild (‘gentile’) flavour and high oil content. The large fruit that is yielded also makes it a popular choice for use in confectionery.
The hazelnut can be found growing in the undulating hills of the Langhe region (south of Turin). The Langhe is also home to acres of vineyards of nebbiolo grapes, producing Italy’s finest Barolo and Barberesco wines.
Like Italy’s wines, the Piedmont hazelnut is cultivated and protected under strict agricultural regulations. It is the only variety of hazelnut to be awarded the certification IGP ("Indicazione Geografica Protetta" or protected designation of origin), as a testament to its superior quality.
Regulations allow for a production of no more than 3,400 kilos per hectare, and govern the environmental conditions in which the Piedmont hazelnut “Nocciola Piemontese” is cultivated.
There are also extremely specific product characteristics that the “Piedmont Hazelnut PGI” must meet, from having a shell that is not too shiny, and a compact, crunchy texture to delivering an extremely refined and persistent flavour and aroma.
Toasted Piedmont Hazelnuts are an important ingredient in the traditional chocolates and sweets from the region. In particular the hazelnuts are mixed with cocoa and sugar to produce Gianduia chocolate spread and Gianduiotti, small foil wrapped chocolates with a characteristic upside down boat shape.
Nutritional Properties of the Hazelnut
The Piedmont Hazelnut distinguishes itself from other hazelnut varieties with its high oil content (approximately 70%). It has a high percentage of monounsaturated fat (40% in 100g).
Similar to extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut oil is rich in essential amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins and lipids.