Hearts racing for Hazelnuts

Friday, 7 June 2024

Hearts racing for Hazelnuts

You’ll find hazelnuts in delicious desserts, cereals, chocolates, and meals the world–over. But you don’t need to go far in the world to find your hazelnut fix. They’re grown right here in Selwyn, by Ann Joseph of White Heart Hazelnuts, on the road between Lincoln and Tai Tapu!


a range of hazelnut treats

Ann not only grows hazelnuts, she also makes a delicious range of hazelnut products, including toppers (for sprinkling on porridge, yoghurt, or desserts), hazelnut butter, and energy bars intriguingly named “Danger’s Bar”.

Her hazelnut adventure started a little over 20 years ago, when she decided to combine her life-long experience in catering with her love for gardening. After looking at a few different properties, she chose a patch of untouched land near Tai Tapu. One of its biggest selling points was its beautiful view of the Port Hills, but its soil and other conditions have proven excellent for growing, too.

Remarkably, Ann does pretty much everything at White Heart herself, which includes making all the products. Over the years, she’s evolved her range, because she says there’s just so many things you can do with hazelnuts.

Her most popular creations? Toppers, which are mixes of lightly-toasted hazelnuts, oats, and other flavours, perfect for sprinkling on porridge, bircher, yoghurt, or desserts. Other top sellers include flavoured hazelnuts, cookies, and sweet chilli sauce. “Because I’m doing it all myself, I can do what people want,” she says.

That includes what’s came to be known as a Danger’s Bar. It was inspired by a request by her daughter’s partner, a mountain biker nicknamed Danger. He needed a convenient, energy-packed snack for his rides.

Ann spent some time developing the recipe, which includes dates, fairtrade chocolate, and cranberry or apricot (depending on which one you select). She sells them in handy home-compostable resealable bags, perfect for taking on the road.

The White Heart philosophy

What truly sets White Heart apart is Ann’s commitment to doing things the right way, and you get the feeling that’s something that’s been there her entire life. That commitment includes choosing ingredients from producers who share her belief in ethical and sustainable standards, such as Fairtrade cocoa and chocolate.

“The products are really minimal, but honest products, good–tasting, and using ingredients that I consider good,” she says. That includes New Zealand ingredients, with no preservatives, and low sugar content. “That’s the way I like to eat food myself, and the way I like to do it.”

She takes a similar approach to her farming. It’s small–scale and hands-on, favouring traditional techniques over machinery - for example, drying hazelnuts in hanging onion sacks. The same goes for the packaging: minimal, letting the value of the contents shine.

Living and working in Selwyn

By doing everything herself, there’s variety every day. “Because my kitchen is on our property, I can choose when I work in it,” she says. That leaves plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors, and the Port Hills view that drew her there decades ago.

“We love being able to look out at the Port HIlls every morning,” she says. “We love the skyscape. We love just the whole environment of being out in the country, with a big open sky.”


Buying White Heart Hazelnut products

Many of Ann’s products are for sale just down the road from her farm, at the General Post in Tai Tapu. They’re also available on her website, and at stores around various parts of the South Island.

But we reckon the best way to try her products might be at the source. Ann recently started selling products from a small shop next to her kitchen, which is open on weekends. And if you’re lucky, you might be able to hear a bit about what she does in-person, because she tells an inspiring story.

“There could be a great future for hazelnuts in New Zealand,” she says.

Speaking with her, it feels like it’s already here.

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