My love of cobnuts stems from my Mum’s love and I remember fondly her buying huge bags to sit and shell. Her reward, and ours if we stayed around long enough, would be the sweet, crisp fruit which she cracked from within the young green shells.
What I didn’t know about this old nut was that it’s a cultivated form of Hazel, a varietal, just like a cox’ apple and has been grown in English gardens and orchards since at least the 16th century. Catkins are the first indication of cobnut growth and appear on the trees in February, they’re harvested in their green shells from the middle of August and with brown shells and husks by mid-October. All Kentish Cobnuts are sold without their feathery husks from November onwards.
The cobnut was a forerunner to the chestnut in the game of conkers, known as cobnut or cobblenut, the toughest, titled nut would be known as the cob.
Many new varieties were bred in the 19th century, the Kentish Cob was probably introduced in 1830 and as a reliable cropper, relatively hardy, with excellent flavour, it dominated the market.
In the early 1900’s cobnuts were grown on over 7,000 acres, mostly in Kent but after the First World War, labour costs increased and there was competition from imports of both fruit and nuts. Once a thriving industry , it’s sad to learn that there are no more than 250 acres of old cobnut platts left. Potash Farm in St Mary’s Platt is one and Alexander Hunt tends its 6 acres which are likely to have been planted in about 1900. The site has been restored over the last five years and contains 500 original trees and 500 newly planted trees.
They produce a variety of artisanal products from chocolates to oils and I was sent a couple of their cobnut sauces to try, along with some fudge and cobnut brittle.
Their Thai Chilli Sauce with Kentish Cobnuts (3%) is a fun take on the classic which is great for dipping, smearing on grilled chicken, great in a dollop of mayonnaise for a special crudites dip or brushed on corn cobs.
The Smokey Roasted Pepper Sauce with Kentish Cobnuts (3%) is great for barbecued meat or fish, add a tablespoon to oil for dressing or again with a little mayonnaise for a dip.
Whilst I have a pretty sweet tooth, I’m not a huge fan of over-sugared fudge but I love different textures and the Chocolate and Kentish Cobnut Fudge ticks all the boxes. Small crunchy pieces of nut with a velvet smooth dense fudge butter texture.
Finally, and by no means least, the Kentish Cobnut Brittle has it all, great snap, buttery sweet with a great salt balance, watch out for loose fillings though as brittle can be costly to teeth.
I’d be keen to take a stroll around Potash Farm to learn more about cobnut production, but if you can’t make it and want to try some nuts, you can pre-order ahead of harvest here.