Chile hazel scientifically known as Gevuina avellana is an evergreen tree or large shrub that belongs to a mono specific genus of the family Proteaceae. The plant is native to southern Chile and adjacent valleys in Argentina. It is a popular plant with many names including Chile hazel, Chilean hazel, Chilean hazelnut, Chilean wild nut, Gevuina nut, Hardy macadamia, gevuina nut and Chilean nut. The tree is commonly harvested from the wild as a food and source of wood. It is cultivated as a seed crop in its native Chile and also in New Zealand, and is often grown as an ornamental, being especially valued for its decorative foliage. The name Gevuina comes from guevin, the Mapuche Indian name for the Chilean hazel.
Chile hazel is a multi-stemmed medium-sized evergreen tree, or shrub that grows about 20 meters (65 feet) tall. The plant is found growing in wet mountain forests, snow-line down to the coast along the Pacific coast of the Andes. It can grow up straight or branched from the soil. Leaves are large, bipinnate, leaflets glossy, coriaceous dark green with serrated margins. Inflorescence is racemose, flowers are snow- to ivory-white, borne on the outside of the canopy in pairs. Tepals 4, fused into a single structure with stamens curving back at anthesis to reveal the simple style and ovary. Flowering normally takes place from June to August. Fertile flowers are followed by spherical to ellipsoid nut with a small point at the tip, 15-28 mm long and 13-18 mm wide (measurements for dried specimens). They are initially green, ripening through red to black, and some forms yellow when ripe; surface of dried fruit finely and irregularly longitudinally fissured. Only one seed are present that are globular with smooth, tough shell.
Culinary uses of Chile hazel
- Seed are consumed raw or cooked.
- A popular food in Chile where it is often sold in local markets and is a much sought after item of diet.
- Roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute.
- There are a wide variety of possible uses in food, e.g. in sweets, pastries, cakes, flour, and ice cream.
- Seeds can be used in a variety of confectionery (chocolates, cakes, muesli bars), cereal preparations, roasted nuts or they can be processed into gevuina butter, a high protein flour and a variety of other products.
- Seedcase is a source of tannin.
- Wood is light, strong, easily worked, elastic, not very durable.
- It is used for furniture, oars, roof-shingles, cabinet and musical instrument making, and for boats making.
- High oil content of the fruit (50%) means that Gevuina has the potential for use in the food and cosmetic industries.
- Extraction of the oil leaves a residue that contains essential amino acids, which if converted to human food would be particularly useful in complementing diets of cereals and legumes.
- This ornamental plant is very rich in honey and that is the reason hundreds of bees swamps this area.
- Seed shells contain tannin that is used for tanning leather.
- Husks left over after nuts processing are rich in tannin.
- Its fine foliage is in demand in the cut flower market.
- Tree is found on badly eroded slopes and has potential for erosion control by binding soil liable to erosion.