These chestnuts that may later be ‘roasting on an open fire’ are now falling from the trees that produced them over summer.

Of all the nut trees that are actually quite easy to grow, the chestnut, Castanea (various specie and hybrids), has somehow become the most obscure. It probably lost popularity while native forests in eastern North America were being annihilated by rampant disease (which never became such a threat in the west), but may be unpopular simply because it can get so big. Mature trees are regularly more than seventy feet tall and nearly as broad.

Chestnut trees are productive for those who like the nuts, but simply very messy for those who do not. The smooth meaty nuts are contained within offensively spiny husks known as ‘burrs’. A few varieties of chestnuts fall freely from the burrs. Most need to be separated from their burrs even after they fall to the ground. The evenly serrate leaves will soon be turning amber gold or brown for autumn.


8 thoughts on “Chestnut

  1. When I was a child, my father and I would walk in a friend’s orchard and pick red delicious apples to eat as we walked. Along the edge of the orchard were chestnut trees, and we would take a bag along to pick some of them to take home. The smell of the wet leaves of fall, good crisp apples and collecting chestnuts is one of my favorite memories. Years later a bad blight wiped out most of the chestnut trees in this area. A few still produce some that we can buy at the store, but it’s not the same. These are smaller and gnarly and taste different. I would love to have some like those we used to gather in the orchard.

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    1. I grew up with the last remnants of the formerly vast orchards of the Santa Clara Valley, but not chestnuts. I was fascinated by them though, since many who migrated here were familiar with them from other regions. A few grew on the farm, although most died out prior to my time. (Orchard commodities of the Santa Cruz Mountains were very different from those of the Santa Clara Valley.)

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      1. Those in the picture were collected from a parking lot under what used to be a grand chestnut tree. The tree was there prior to the parking lot, and was pollarded to diminish the mess on the parking lot, and then, soon after we collected these last nuts, got cut down.

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      2. No young people don’t understand how good some old time things were. They want everything easy too, so something that tastes sort of like a nut should come out of a metal can. It takes a little work to peel a chestnut, but they’re so worth a little work. I never liked them roasted, just plain old raw ones.

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      3. I grew up with English walnuts and almonds. English walnuts were the only common orchard commodity of the Santa Clara Valley that is not a stone fruit. It did not provide spectacular bloom that tourists came to see. (There were a few other orchard trees that are not stone fruits, but they were uncommon.) Anyway, chestnuts were fascinating because I had never seen any away from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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