Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chestnut Tree

I found this large chestnut tree over by the Haunted House down Willow Creek Road- I was super excited about finding it cause I like to collect chestnuts fresh off the tree (free food excites me)! I know it's not an American Chestnut, cause those almost went extinct back in the day...

"It is estimated that the total number of chestnut trees in eastern North America was over three billion, and that 25 percent of the trees in the Appalachian Mountains were American Chestnut.The American Chestnut is highly susceptible to chestnut blight, caused by an Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica, formerly Endothia parasitica) accidentally introduced into North America on imported Asiatic chestnut trees. The number of large surviving American Chestnut trees over 60 cm (24 inches) in diameter within the tree's former range is probably fewer than 100."
Those green balls of spiky doom are what holds the yummy chestnut treasure - this tree looks as though it is going to drop more then I could ever eat. It's a very large tree with a wide reaching range of branches. They branch out so far I had to triple check that I was finding the right trunk they were growing from... below is a picture of what the bark looks like on a Asian Chestnut, so it will help ya identify the tree better when looking for it!
The leaves are rather large and glossy, with distinct lines, edges, and shape. The Asian variety seems to have very dark green leaves.
When the chestnuts are ready to eat, the green spiky balls turn dry & brown - then fall to the ground. These things are not soft or hairy- it's more of a porcupine type thing going on...or maybe a ball of hospital needles - so grab it lightly and slowly.
Generally the balls open up and the chestnuts fall out! (Thank Gawd!) Pictured below is an open spike ball from last year- cause they are not quite ready yet this season, chestnuts fall to the ground when it's cold out and you are gearing up to hear Christmas songs in every store.
(I don't have a pic of the chestnut itself here, but click on one of the cooking links below and you can see what it looks like.)

Here is how easy it is to prepare them : Chestnut Cooking Tips! Just cut some X's in the skin and roast in the oven or boil! You can make other recipes with them too...mmmm.

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