My 2 acre property is gifted with three over thirty year old chestnut trees. I pray always for the wonderful soul who cared enough to plant them. They are likely an Asian European hybrid planted in the sixties or seventies. If they remain, they will be here for several hundred years or longer than all the maples and the old falling down apple trees and pears, and longer than the sixties speed built house I live in. Right now they are flowering, or the first is. For the next month they will have these very strange space age flowers. Each flower is a male and a female in succession. You need three trees so the staggered succession of flowering allows the fruit to fertilize. Various bees pollinate the trees, but the flowers are after all the honey suckle and fruit trees, and berries. It is a strong smell but brings in bees to the green beans and seeding lettuce and cabbage type plants. I thought my one tree was less fertile, but now I realize it is just the first to blossom! In the fall the large tennis ball picker fruits will open on a warm day following a cold snap and chestnuts will begin to fall. I will need to wear a hat to walk under them to save my noggin. I will need to wear thick shoes as the picker outer shells are worse than giant burrs. But inside each burr is three beautiful nuts, though sometimes the nuts drop out before the burr falls when the weather is just right. I will protect my hand with gloves. I will stomp the burr with my shoe to break the nut loose. and I will pick up a several gallons of chestnuts in a bucket, and invite my friends to pick up more. Kids are much faster at this then grownups. No one bothers with the little poorly formed nuts that will be half the crop this dry year. If you were hungry you could dry them and grind them. We leave them as a gift to the varmints I guess!
Chestnuts are NOT like walnuts. They are a starch, more like a bean. They are starch, not a fatty food. You need to soak them in saltwater to get rid of a little wormy thing that seeks them out. If you do not, they will get wormy over time. Then you wash them and dry them and cover them tight and put them in the frig and keep them like fresh vegetables. When they are right off the tree, I chew them with their dark cover over the nut. Of course if they are not just fallen fresh, they need cooking. In that dark skin over the nut, is exactly what I need for my sore legs (veins). Like horsechestnut, it is a herbal treatment, but unlike horse chestnut it is edible. Dogs chew chestnuts like bones until they are sick of them, and squirrels go nuts. Deer invade my yard, and groundhogs and squirrels. A chestnut night with a full moon is kind of like a creature party.
If I needed a garden staple food, if I was hungrier than lazy, I could guard these ripening trees from the squirrels day an night and have ten times what i harvest. But as it is I work not at all and have more than i need most years. It is a literal pain to sweep up the burrs in piles. They are a base under wood chips in most of my gardens near the trees. They decompose in about a year, but until they do the soil is going to scratch a bare hand.
To cook chestnuts, we score the dark skin in an x shape and microwave or put in a toaster oven until they pop. We also stick them in the crock pot of meat or soup. They do not taste like a nut. More like a potato really. They have been deep fried and that is probably the tastiest prep but the most fattening way to eat them.
If you plant chestnuts, get good stock and get three trees AT LEAST to pollinate them. I have hundreds of seedling growing, but if I was trying to get more trees I would airlayer these known good tasting probably F1 hybrids someone bought from a catalog. In the city it would mean a couple of neighbors would need to plant with me. These would be people who would care to take care of these trees, a neighbor calls messy . They are beautiful trees. The Asian type are low and spreading and would not bother a tall electric wire, though maybe al lower telephone wire.. There is research now producing American type chestnut trees that are disease resistant and grow very tall and straight. Order from OIKOS, a Michigan Nursery. https://oikostreecrops.com/
If you have land that you plan to leave to descendants, or to a conservancy or in anyway keep for a long time, PLANT CHESTNUTS. They should be far away from OAKS for purpose of cross contamination of pests. You might never harvest them yourself if you are my age. However, you give a gift of a staple food to posterity. Paris made it through World War 2, harvesting chestnuts. Even now many French take holiday when the chestnuts fall. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/24/its-chestnut-season-in-southern-france/
[quote] [/quote][quote] [/quote]The American Chestnut did not succumb to disease until the beginning of the 1900s. Much of the forest of the USA was chestnut before the blight, and some wonder if this was facilitated by plantings by aboriginal Americans. The large availability of chestnuts, which seed and reseed themselves with the help of squirrels, was a lot of why pioneers could LIVE OFF THE LAND. There was always this steady fall calorie source to gather for the hungry winter.
There are also black walnuts on this property but they do not seem to be harmful to the chestnuts. I have no idea how to harvest a black walnut! What an amazing strong shell. Inside, the squirrels tell me there is something delicious. Again if I was actually hungry I might figure it out.