Hazel is the plant that has most enthusiastically welcomed me to Europe. In my first days in Berlin, I took this photo and posted it on Facebook, asking if anyone knew what it was.
I quickly figured out for myself that it is Turkish Hazel: Corylus colurna. It’s a fairly common street tree here in Berlin. I was thrilled that the plant that had inspired my curiosity turned out to be one I already knew about, glad to meet it in person.
When I went to Ireland, I was looking forward to journeying to the spirit world and meeting some locals. Everyplace I went seemed to glow a little, and I could hear the call of spirits just beyond my range of hearing everywhere. It’s a well-worshipped place, where the magic of nature isn’t denied. I planned to find a nice place out in the woods somewhere and have a chat with whatever spirits wanted to meet me. When I came across this hazel thicket surrounding a flat-topped boulder, I knew I had found my spot. I lay down on the rock, closed my eyes and slipped into trance, curious.
Hazelnuts had been on my list of foods that I felt I had an ancestral connection with for some time, but now I knew we had lived in homes made from it and cooked over fires it fueled. We tended and maintained the coppiced groves for generation upon generation. I smiled to myself as I watched a young man teach his sons how to open the nuts by smashing them carefully between two rocks, on a path in the woods of one of my ancestral homelands.
Then back home, having brunch at a sidewalk café in Prenzlauerberg where I had first noticed hazel, I flipped to the “tea” section of the menu. The words “hazel leaf” jumped off that page at me. A tea blend of many flowers and the leaf from my new friend. I knew as soon as I saw the list of herbs in “Flower Meadow” tea that it played the same role here that I used pecan for in Texas – an astringent base to give body and depth to an otherwise ethereal flowery combination. I drank it in. My eminently useful new companion, my host and my protector, dear Hazel.