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Chestnuts  RSS feed

 
Posts: 300
Location: CT zone 5b
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Hi Matu, I'd like to take you up on that seedling offer! I can probably make this happen with proper arrangements and good timing. When is the best time to dig em up and have them survive?
 
Posts: 1983
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Will Holland wrote:Hi Matu, I'd like to take you up on that seedling offer! I can probably make this happen with proper arrangements and good timing. When is the best time to dig em up and have them survive?



Hmm, I imagine either in the winter when they are dormant and the ground is soft enough to dig or in the early spring.
 
Will Holland
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Our ground is already starting to freeze so let's shoot for early spring!
 
gardener
Posts: 697
Location: Mount Shasta, CA Zone 8a Mediterranean climate
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I already posted this in the Garden Picture Exchange Thread but here's a few pictures of what you can expect to get as far as the larger chestnuts, even the smaller ones from this tree are over an inch and a quarter across. We transplanted a volunteer seedling that was about 12" tall six years ago and it produced a few husks last year. This year it's about 10' tall and I'd say it put on around 25-35 husks with maybe 2/3 of those containing 1"+ nuts.

Family lore is that my great grandma brought over some castaneas from Italy when the family emigrated and that she made sure that she always brought a seedling along whenever she had to move. If that's true then what we have here is probably some kind of European hybrid but boy do they love the Mediterranean climate here. The oldest tree is probably around 80 years old and is still producing in abundance. It's only around 35-40' tall but currently has a spread of around 50'. I say currently because when my grandpa was in care of the trees he liked to prune the tree to spread and supported the spreading branches with wooden posts, leading to a spread of at least 80'. We have since pruned them back over the years so that they can handle the snow-loads we get here without any supports. Also, talk about rot resistant wood! There's a limb stub from an improperly made cut my grandpa did probably 15 years ago. The wood is still solid and the tree is just now starting to swallow the 3" long stub which is probably 8" diameter. As a professional arborist I can tell you that most trees would have major decay by year 10 with a poorly made cut like that.
Nice-Chestnut.jpg
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Chestnut-View-2.jpg
[Thumbnail for Chestnut-View-2.jpg]
 
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My family and I are avid chestnut fans! We harvest about 100 pounds a year of what I think are Chinese Chestnuts in the Willamette Valley South of Portland on a small, hobby farm. I have also done a lot of urban foraging of chestnuts in and around Portland which is fun but the yields are less because of competition from older Chinese ladies. Cooking and peeling the nuts is time consuming and I am wondering if anyone has any short cuts or techniques they use to shell them.

My son and I made this wacky video about how to harvest them. I put some additional instructions in the text as well.

 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1983
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Now is the time! We are swimming in chestnuts right now (ow!)

I haven't seen a single weevil larva yet, crossing my fingers

I was bummed to find out that a neighbor who planned chestnuts around the same time ours were planted decades ago does not pick theirs up, so no matter how good our orchard hygiene is, we might still get weevils from them. On the good side, if we want more nuts, there they are...
 
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I think my technique for acorns might work for chestnuts too, since they are rather similar in shell texture and interior consistency. I simply clip each nut in half with a good pair of heavy hand pruners. Sometimes I will go back through and cut each half into quarters. At this point the shells are easy to separate from the nuts, perhaps encouraged by spreading out to dry for a few hours or a day.
The problem with chestnuts and acorns is that they are starchy and moist, unlike other nuts, and relatively perishable when fresh, whether in the shell or not. To store them in bulk, many people freeze them, but what if one has too many. Both can become the starchy staple of a diet, and have been wherever they grow in the world.
What I do is spread the pieces to dry in the sun, or wherever you like to dry food. Take them in or cover them at night or in wet weather. When the pieces are completely dry (acorns at least become flint-hard, and shatter when you try to clip them again), they can be put into a bucket and stirred around. This sloughs off the thin, bitter inner peel, which can then be winnowed off by pouring the pieces between two buckets in the wind. Then store in jugs or jars, much as you would grain. They will keep at least a year like this.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1983
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Alder Burns wrote:I think my technique for acorns might work for chestnuts too, since they are rather similar in shell texture and interior consistency. I simply clip each nut in half with a good pair of heavy hand pruners. Sometimes I will go back through and cut each half into quarters. At this point the shells are easy to separate from the nuts, perhaps encouraged by spreading out to dry for a few hours or a day.
The problem with chestnuts and acorns is that they are starchy and moist, unlike other nuts, and relatively perishable when fresh, whether in the shell or not. To store them in bulk, many people freeze them, but what if one has too many. Both can become the starchy staple of a diet, and have been wherever they grow in the world.
What I do is spread the pieces to dry in the sun, or wherever you like to dry food. Take them in or cover them at night or in wet weather. When the pieces are completely dry (acorns at least become flint-hard, and shatter when you try to clip them again), they can be put into a bucket and stirred around. This sloughs off the thin, bitter inner peel, which can then be winnowed off by pouring the pieces between two buckets in the wind. Then store in jugs or jars, much as you would grain. They will keep at least a year like this.



Thank you so much for this! I will be heading out with clippers forthwith. I wonder if the twins could do it with good sharp clippers? They're getting big and strong and careful now.
 
Alder Burns
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Posts: 1454
Location: northern California
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Another advantage of clipping them up is that any wormy ones will be obvious and can be sorted out as you go. Often, only a half or a quarter will be damaged and the rest still usable....
 
Posts: 121
Location: zone 6a, NY
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Okay, now I'm slightly confused. Since you're out of the native range of American Chestnuts, wouldn't that be all the more reason to raise them? Being out of the area where the host of a disease like blight lives should help in preventing contact with it.


Also, I've heard that after so long of the blight existing, only naturally resistant trees have survived, thanks to natural selection and all that. So if you can still find American chestnut seed(nuts) now, they should be good. Is this true?
 
Alder Burns
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If it's me that last question is directed to, yes, I do have two chestnuts planted, but they are too small still to bear. Chestnuts of various varieties are not uncommon in various parts of the West, and you are correct in that blight doesn't occur here.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1983
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Here in Rhode Island we are in the original range of the native American Chestnut. There are a few trees here and there that have died back from blight, sprouted again, died again. One grew back enough to bear nuts this year! We will be saving those and trying to grow them out and cross the offspring.

The first weevil larvae appeared today, still crossing my fingers that there are fewer this year.
 
Guerric Kendall
Posts: 121
Location: zone 6a, NY
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Thank you. Those questions are for anyone who is raising chestnuts or knew enough about the American variety to answer them.
 
pollinator
Posts: 309
Location: New Zealand
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I confess I haven't read the whole thread but here is what we do...

1. Boil them whole then cut in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon. I freeze it in 250gm and 500gm lots to suit the main recipes I use them for, (Kale, bacon and chestnut soup and Chestnut and Chocolate cake...MMMM).

2. Cut the raw nuts in quarters with a sharp knife and peel off the outer shell. Put the nuts through the slice blade on the food processor and freeze in batches big enough to fit in a metal meat dish. We do this because at the time we're harvesting chestnuts there's so much other harvesting going on too. Later when the garden slows down a bit we take the chestnuts out of the freezer and spread them out in a meat dish to dry. We cook with a woodstove and there is a smaller, lower temperature oven which is perfect. I leave the door slightly open and stir them every hour or two. They take at least a day and sometimes more to dry. Once dry they will store well in jars. The pieces are small enough to go through my flour grinder and make lovely chestnut flour for using in baking or thickening sauces. The inner skin is never removed but isn't a problem in this drying and grinding process.

And, of course we use fresh ones too, while they're around...roasted in their shells, (pierced to prevent explosions), peeled and roasted with pork, peeled and boiled with corned beef and veges...whatever your imagination suggests. I love them.
 
Posts: 3
Location: NC/VA border, piedmont
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Hi,

First post here, but I have some experience with Chinese chestnuts. Virginia/NC piedmont border. Planted the first on freshly de-pined land in 2007-9. Went in too deep with a modern drip irrigation system and grafted varieties. Almost entirely the grafts died and I was not full-time here back then, so I kind of gave up on that parcel. Came back and trained the root-sprout suckers into trees themselves. They are precocious, even as non-grafted. I now have a handful taller than me, and after receiving better care many more are chest-high and seem to be growing fine. A few get stuck as dwarves, haven't decided whether to pull them out or not.

General Cultivation tips:

Graft-union failure is a big issue that obviously nurseries would like to downplay. I will replant dead-holes with seeds from my more successful specimens.

They do not stand much weed competition early on. Landscape fabric, followed by annual or semi-annual weeding with a mattock and-or some herbicide (let us not digress on that topic, I have too many trees to do entirely by hand and get ahead on other projects, and the land/local ecology is not particularly generous)

Growing on sloping yellow clay-sand. Patches of more sand host the healthiest trees, though some on more reddish have survived to at least bush-size.

Additions of fresh wood mulch below weed fabric, along with 10-10-10 and a touch of Zinc sulfate have really made the difference this year, my first year using both. Leaves are dark green and continuing to grow. Before summer Solstice, plan to expand the mulch/fertilizer area on each. Heavy mulching might obviate the need for an irrigation system, at least in most years.

Collected seeds as soon as four or five years after planting, they are more like fruit trees than traditional 'nuts'.

No discernible pest pressure, other than deer browsing new growth. Some sort of herbivore barrier is necessary, though once their main growing is above six feet (2m) they can withstand pressure so the cages can be moved or allow to decay. A few caterpillars but not invasive and can be hand-removed at this point.

American chestnuts survive due to their suckering, same is true of chinese chestnuts. If they survive a year or more the roots are vigorous enough for them to keep growing back, and you get another chance to protect them.

Suffered in this last spring from a late frost. 70% of the mulched and caged trees at least rebudded using summer buds, look a little 'off' but are growing vigorous new tissue. 20% of the balance (the least healthiest I hadn't managed to improve) resprouted from roots, only a handful seem truly dead.

Nuts are delicious but this year I fear most of my nuts will be saved for replanting.

Aroma of blossoms is neither truly objectionable nor pleasant... no way to describe the smell without being off-color. Seem to be a good source of bee pollen if not nectar.

--Reply-- I would love to learn tips from other growers, and I have many other observations I can't think of at the moment.
 
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