About Me

My photo
Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chasing Chestnuts

As I was walking my usual route this morning, I happened to look up and across the street and spied an interesting looking tree. I guess I've seen this tree thousands of times but obviously not at this particular time of year. At first it appeared to be laden with little green apples, but upon approaching, I noticed they were chestnut husks. I was so impressed I just had to stop and take a few shots.
Now I often see chestnuts on the streets and sidewalks around here and have always taken them for granted. And one wintery evening several years ago, I tasted some roasted chestnuts at Van Dusen Gardens while admiring their annual Christmas light show. They were delicious, but very very rich. So seeing all these chestnut husks hanging heavily on this tree got me wondering about chestnut trees, so I did a bit of digging. I found the following information about chestnuts here.

Probably one of the first foods eaten by man, the chestnut dates back to prehistoric times. The chestnut tree, Castanea sativa, was first introduced to Europe via Greece.
The majority of the chestnut trees currently found in America are of native European stock, but Native Americans feasted on America's own variety, Castanea dentata, long before European immigrants introduced their stock to America.
In 1904, diseased Asian chestnut trees planted on Long Island, New York carried a fungus hitchiker that nearly devasted the American chestnut population, leaving only a few groves in California and the Pacific Northwest to escape the blight.
Today, most of the chestnut food crop is imported from Japan, China, Spain, and Italy. Chestnuts are known as marrons in France and some parts of Europe. These starchy nuts are given to the poor as a symbol of sustenance on the Feast of Saint Martin and are also traditionally eaten on Saint Simon's Day in Tuscany.
Legend has it that the Greek army survived on their stores of chestnuts during their retreat from Asia Minor in 401-399 B.C.
Chestnuts contain twice as much starch as potatoes. It is no wonder they are still an important food crop in China, Japan, and southern Europe where they are often ground into a meal for breadmaking, thus giving rise to the nickname of "bread tree."
Chestnut timber resembles its cousin, the oak, in both color and texture and is highly-valued. Also known for its tanning properties, the trees can live up to five hundred years and usually do not begin to produce fruit until they are forty years old.

It's hard to believe that this tree in my neighbourhood is over forty years old, but according to my research it has to be. As I got closer to the tree to try to get a macro shot, the wind kept blowing the branches around. The husks looked very soft and fluffy, so I tried to grab the branch to keep it still. Ouch! They're very very sharp and spiky! Apparently, these husks (or burrs) can hold up to three chestnuts so I think I'm going to keep a closer eye on this tree so that I can gather them when they fall. The tree is on public property so there should be no problem taking them. Then I'm going to find out how to roast them.
It's hardly even fall, but I'm already looking ahead to Christmas and roasting chestnuts over an open fire. Hmmm, I just had my chimney cleaned, too. All I need is a cast iron pan.


Isabelle said...

Hmm. I wonder if they're eatable? The chestnuts that (mostly) grow here aren't. But then, you don't live in Scotland.

holly said...

these actually look like something out of a dr. seuss book! wow! good ol' seuss-y, inspired by chestnuts!

Ruth D~ said...

You are a life-long learner, and such a pedalogue! And I'm glad. I always learn so much from your blogs. I've never tasted a roasted chestnut, although I hope to. I kicked a few fallen ones on a walk today, but can't recall having seen the tree in the state you describe.

jmb said...

A most interesting tree and good photos Leslie. I did not like roasted chestnuts however when I ate them.

Daryl said...

I had no idea chestnuts looks like that ...

To roast them you must score the shell and use a heavy skillet on top of the stove and keep moving them around or a cookie sheet in the oven .. tho I am not sure how long ..


PERBS said...

Love that shot of the chestnuts!!!!!!!!! As I was reading your post description, I thought that maybe I was about to find out the name of the "things" growing on trees around here. . . but it wasn't to be so. Mine are green but they look more like a long three sided green nut. I am keeping an eye on the places I have spotted them so I can find out what they are. I am also looking for people to be in their yards to help identify "mine."

I am catching up on my blog reading and left a comment on your last three posts. . .

Carver said...

What a fascinating post. I didn't know about the history of chestnuts. What beautiful shots you took. This is such a fun time of year, the weather cooling down, new site and smells. There just something about fall that smells different to me. I just had a funny thought, maybe the new smells are all the fungi I'm letting spring up in wet leaves.

Jo said...

Leslie, make sure those are the edible chestnuts. I know some of them are not. We used to make wonderful bubble pipes out of chestnuts when I was a little girl. Did you ever do that?

Beautiful photographs!

Country Girl said...

Wow! Thanks for going to the trouble! Those things look like they could hurt.

Cedar said...

Ever wonder way back when how people decided what was good to eat? Like who came up with eating snails? I bet there was a lot of: I dare you to eat that.