Chestnut Trees

    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Liquidambar and Japanese maple trees can’t be beat for fall color. Choose them now while you can see their bright colors.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.
    • Clean up dead foliage on perennials like peonies, daylilies and balloon flower and cut back dead flower stems on Echinacea, blanket flower and penstemon.
    • Persimmons look beautiful hanging on the bare branches of trees. Consider planting one in your orchard.

Spreading Chestnut Trees

The cold, crisp days of fall are the time when spiny chestnut balls pop open to reveal the sweet nuts inside ready to be roasted or cooked and made into delightful stuffings and desserts. The trees which grow these delicious nuts are large and spreading and make fine shade trees, growing 40 to 50 feet tall and wide.

Only a century ago, the American chestnut was one of the most prized of the eastern hardwoods. Because its wood was durable and rot resistant, it was used for home siding and shingles, furniture and fencing, as well as other uses. The chestnut blight, which was introduced in 1904 from Asia, has virtually eliminated the American chestnut tree from its original range. Fortunately, this disease does not occur west of the Rocky Mountains.

Four species of chestnuts have been grown in the West: European, American, Chinese and Japanese chestnuts. There are also hybrids which do very well here. One of them is named ‘Colossal’ for the extra large nuts it bears which average 16 nuts per pound. They are sweet and easy to peel and they dry and store well. It makes a fine, fast-growing tree.

Two varieties of chestnuts, or two seedling trees are needed to insure pollination. Grafted trees will begin bearing in 2 to 3 years, and seedlings in 5 to 7 years. A mature tree will produce hundreds of pounds of nuts each year in October and November.

Chestnuts are beautiful trees. Their long, toothed, green leaves turn golden yellow in the fall. Flowers grow in long, slender clusters that completely cover the tree with sweet-smelling, creamy-pink sprays in June or July. Trees live for hundreds of years.

They grow best in well-drained sandy loam, and require better drainage than apples. They will, however, grow in heavy soil on sloping terrain, and grow wherever pine trees do well.

The nuts are rich in sugar and starch, but unlike other nuts, they are low in fat. They are used for food or for animal feed. When chestnuts drop to the ground, they should be gathered every day wearing gloves to protect your hands from the prickly burrs. (These prickly hulls deter squirrels and rodents from gathering the nuts before you.) You can store nuts in a sealed container in the refrigerator for several months.

Chestnuts can be boiled, roasted over an open fire, baked in the oven, and steamed. They can also be eaten raw after the two skins are removed.

Chestnut trees can be grown for a commercial crop. The value of the nuts is directly related to the size, but is usually at least $5.00 per pound wholesale and up to $8.00 per pound retail. Trees will start to give a significant yield at about 10 years old, and yields range from 14 pounds to 130 pounds per tree.

Chestnuts are a good food source, and a few acres can yield nuts for your own enjoyment, or for sale to your local market.

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