”’Scientific Name”’: ”Castanea sativa”
”’Also known as”’: Spanish Chestnut, Portuguese Chestnut or Marron.
”’Habitat”’: The sweet chestnut is thought to have been introduced to the British Isles by the Romans but today it can be found commonly throughout Britain in woods and copses, especially in parts of southern England, where it is still managed to form large areas of coppice. Native to Europe and Asia Minor, and widely cultivated throughout the temperate world. The tree requires a mild climate and adequate moisture for good growth and a good nut harvest. Its year-growth (but not the rest of the tree) is sensitive to late spring and early autumn frosts, and is intolerant of lime. Under forest conditions, it will tolerate moderate shade well.
”’Description”’: A substantial, long-lived deciduous tree, it produces an edible seed, the chestnut, which has been used in cooking since ancient times. C. sativa attains a height of 20–35 m (66–115 ft) with a trunk often 2 m (7 ft) in diameter. Mature sweet chestnut trees can live to more than 2000 years.
* ”’Bark”’ – Silvery green-grey then silvery with a touch of purple, and smooth. Later becomes cracked vertically, then dulls to brown as becomes more deeply fissured. Grooves are typically spiralled up the trunk.
* ”’Twigs”’ – Start off grey-brown (hint of purple?), can be green toward the tip. Later, thicker twigs are green-grey.
* ”’Buds”’ – Few scales, hairless; plum/red-brown to green; ovoid, pointed.
* ”’Leaves”’ – Oblong and toothed with a pointed tip, and feature around 20 pairs of prominent parallel veins. The boldly toothed leaves are 16–28 cm long and 5–9 cm broad.
* ”’Flowers”’ – Long, yellow catkins of mostly male flowers, with female flowers at the base. Sweet chestnut is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are found on the same tree. In the northern hemisphere, they appear in late June to July.
* ”’Fruits”’ – After pollination by insects, by autumn, the female flowers develop into 3 to 7 shiny red-brown fruits wrapped in a green, spiky case, which are shed in October. The trees begin to bear fruit when they are about 25 years old. The tree requires a mild climate and adequate moisture for good growth and a good nut harvest.
==Pictures throughout the year==
File:20170321202007C.JPG|Fallen sweet chestnut
File:Sweet_Chestnut_flower1.jpg|Sweet Chestnut in flower
File:Sweet_Chestnut_flower2.jpg|Sweet Chestnut in flower
File:Sweet_Chestnut_Leaves1.jpg|Sweet Chestnut leaves
File:Sweet_Chestnut_Leaves2.jpg|Sweet Chestnut leaves and flowers
The raw nuts, though edible, have a skin which is astringent and unpleasant to eat when still moist; after drying for a time the thin skin loses its astringency but is still better removed to reach the white fruit underneath. Cooking dry in an oven or fire normally helps remove this skin. Chestnuts are traditionally roasted in their tough brown husks after removing the spiny cupules in which they grow on the tree, the husks being peeled off and discarded and the hot chestnuts dipped in salt before eating them. Roast chestnuts are traditionally sold in streets, markets and fairs by street vendors with mobile or static braziers.
The skin of raw peeled chestnuts can be relatively easily removed by quickly blanching the nuts after scoring them by a cross slit at the tufted end. Once cooked, chestnuts acquire a sweet flavour and a floury texture similar to the sweet potato. The cooked nuts can be used for stuffing poultry, as a vegetable or in nut roasts. They can also be used in confections, puddings, desserts and cakes. They are used for flour, bread making, a cereal substitute, coffee substitute, a thickener in soups and other cookery uses, as well as for fattening stock. A sugar can be extracted from them. The Corsican variety of polenta (called pulenta) is made with sweet chestnut flour. A local variety of Corsican beer also uses chestnuts. The product is sold as a sweetened paste mixed with vanilla, crème de marron, sweetened or unsweetened as chestnut purée or purée de marron, and candied chestnuts as marrons glacés. In Switzerland, it is often served as Vermicelles.
Roman soldiers were given chestnut porridge before going into battle.
Sweet chestnut leaves and bark are a good source of tannins and these have an astringent action useful in the treatment of bleeding, diarrhoea etc. The leaves and bark are anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant and tonic. They are harvested in June or July and can be used fresh or dried. An infusion has been used in the treatment of fevers and ague, but are mainly employed for their efficacy in treating convulsive coughs such as whooping cough and in other irritable conditions of the respiratory system. The leaves can also be used in the treatment of rheumatism, to ease lower back pains and to relieve stiff muscles and joints. A decoction is a useful gargle for treating sore throats. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Extreme mental anguish’, Hopelessness’ and ‘Despair’.
The flowers provide an important source of nectar an pollen to bees and other insects, and red squirrels eat the nuts. A large number of micro-moths feed on the leaves and nuts.
”’Mythology and symbolism”’
There is very little mythology surrounding the sweet chestnut in the UK, probably because it was introduced. However, the ancient Greeks dedicated the sweet chestnut to Zeus and its botanical name castanea comes from Castonis, a Town in Thessaly in Greece where the tree was grown for its nuts.
”’How we use sweet chestnut”’
Sweet chestnut timber is similar to oak but is more lightweight and easier to work. It has a straight grain when young but this spirals in older trees. It can be used for carpentry, joinery and furniture. In south east England sweet chestnut is coppiced to produce poles.
The seeds ripen and fall from the tree in October. Best picked from the ground. Quite often very small nuts, but worth hunting around.
The nuts are similar to those of the Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) but are smaller and found in clusters.
Identified in winter by the bark having fissures which spiral around the tree.
Very interested in brewing options for this. Should be plentiful in October.
*Tree & Plant ID Course from Foundation Bushcraft – http://identificationmasterclass.com/
*Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castanea_sativa
*Woodland Trust – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/common-non-native-trees/sweet-chestnut/
*Plants for a future – http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Castanea+sativa