I've been increasingly prone to consuming large quantities of the hazelnuts we're getting from the folks at Freddy Guys in the small, Central Oregon town of Monmouth. I haven't always been the biggest hazelnut eater; I've probably always kind of enjoyed them but ... I just never have used them in huge quantities. But that's changed in the last few months. I love what we're getting from these Guys (sorry, couldn't resist). Freddy Guys is a family-run farm. Fritz and Barb Foulke lead the work. They're growing an old variety called Barcelona (which would explain I guess why some of the other hazelnuts I really like are from Catalonia). The trees were brought from Spain first to the East Coast, best I can tell, in the 19th century. Although they didn't really thrive there, eventually some were loaded on wagons and hauled out west. Wild hazelnuts had grown there for many centuries, but the first cultivated trees in Oregon came up the coast with one Felix Gillet in 1871.
The climate in Oregon is, apparently, very similar to that of the Piedmont in northern Italy, which I, and others, would generally say, in terms of name recognition for high quality, is kind of like world headquarters for hazelnuts (it's certainly the homeland of gianduia—check out the one we have in from Guido Gobbino in Turin). Oregon would be akin to the North American office; it produces by far the most of any state in the U.S., and about twice as many tons a year as the Piedmont. (If you care, Turkey actually grows by far the highest quantity of hazelnuts of any country.)