Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: The American Chestnut
Years ago the American Chestnut was the most important tree in eastern North America. Supplying excellent lumber and tasty nuts that fattened calves and people alike! There are reports that the American Chestnut could grow straight for 50 feet with no other branches. The lumber of 1 tree could fill a train car! It was rot resistant and lighter than oak.
First, here’s a little history on why the giant American chestnut – once a steady nut producer for humans and animals alike – virtually disappeared. In 1904, scientists noticed odd rusty cankers on northeastern chestnuts. The culprit: a fungus called Cryphonectria parasitica or “chestnut blight”. They tried to stop the blight with fungicides, breeding American trees with naturally resistant Asian varieties, and even nuclear radiation, with no luck. So, by 1940 – it had left approximately 3.5 billion dead or dying chestnuts in its wake. (The American Chestnut Foundation is still hard at work at developing a resistant Asian/American hybrid).
Learn more at American Forests
There’s an American/Chinese chestnut cultivar created by Dr. Robert Dunstan, that’s proving resistance too. Find out more Chestnut Hill Nursery and Orchards
At our towns Holiday celebration this year, a wonderful local nursery, Eco Gardens, bought some chestnuts and were roasting them outdoors for a wonderful treat. A friend of mine was ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at a store across the street when someone came over with a bag of the roasted nuts to share and put some cash in the kettle. My friend said they were fabulous while warm! He was also told that it’s difficult to get chestnuts at the right time. They need to be roasted within two weeks of harvest.
Check my recipes tab for how to roast chestnuts. Be sure to score the nut before it hits the heat or it will explode!