Meet Christie McLeod and Mick Delphin, the dynamic duo that have transformed a nut grove into an exceptional Tasmanian destination and a premier producer of hazelnuts. Hazelbrae, situated in the historic town of Hagley, is home to Tasmania’s first commercial Hazelnut operation and home to some of the most beautiful private gardens in the area spanning over 2 acres of roses, English gardens and manicured lawns.
A desire to take charge of their lives led Christie and Mick on a quest to find the perfect patch of land; the one they happened upon included a hazelnut grove. As Christie tells it, she did not much like nuts, but a desire to take charge of the produce and crops that they were growing on their farm at Moriarty led them on a search for an alternative to the intensive broad acre cropping and farming that was all about meeting supplier demands with very little autonomy.
Christie recounts how they started looking at properties for sale and happened upon Hazelbrae Farm at Hagley. “I did not even like or eat nuts, as they were always stale,” she said. However, at Hazelbrae Christie soon discovered the delights of a fresh hazelnut, picked, cracked and roasted on the farm. That was in February 2014.
Since then, this young family have undertaken an amazing and innovative journey that has seen the launch of their freshly pressed hazelnut oil to much acclaim. Then they built a café and tasting centre that offers anyone who cannot get enough hazelnut madness each Saturday at the market, an opportunity to explore hazelnuts, how they are grown, pressed into oil and most importantly transformed in the kitchen at the café into plates of tempting morsels. Today they hold regular events on the lawns at Hazelbrae.
But back to the kernel that has transformed their lives. Hazelnuts are rich in protein and unsaturated fat. They also contain significant amounts of thiamine and the B group of vitamins. The bulk of world hazelnut production is in Turkey on the Black Sea. Australia imports about 2000 tonnes annually, mainly for the confectionary industry, but local hazelnut groves are increasing with growers in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and recently Western Australia. Hazelbrae, the first commercial Tasmanian operation with 5000 trees produces about 50 tonnes as the trees mature. The first planting of hazelnut trees at Hazelbrae was in 2005 with the oldest grove numbering about 700 trees.
Drop into their stall at Harvest Launceston on Saturday where you will be tempted by freshly roasted hazelnuts, some coated in chocolate, hazelnut meal and the latest addition to their repertoire, lamb.
Do not leave the market without a bottle of their liquid gold. A drop of hazelnut oil transforms chocolate and milk into a sumptuous treat. The oil is also wonderful drizzled on fresh local asparagus and a decadent addition to a long list of favourites, from brussels sprouts and broccoli to fresh summer berries and yoghurt. Dribble a drop or raise a nut to this dynamic team at Hazelbrae Farm at Hagley.
phone: 03 6392 2310