The old familiar seasonal pop song, and a line or two in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol are all I ever really knew about chestnuts…
I never connected them to the two Chinese Chestnut trees that until last year shaded the cottage at Middle Ridge but whose viciously sharp burrs deter one from any sort of barefoot exploring in late summer and fall. A lovely limey green in spring and summer, by the fall, the burrs drop off of the tree, dry out, turn brown, and eventually open up. The burrs are every bit as sharp as they look. You really do not want to step on one!
Once the burr opens, there remains the obstacle of the tight brown skin that hides the prized white chestnut meat inside. That’s where the chestnuts roasting over an open fire comes in! (You can also roast them in the oven!) If you’re interested in learning how to roast chestnuts a la the Cratchit family, click here for a really fun site with complete instructions on the manly art of roasting chestnuts…
I found this recipe for a yummy sounding Chestnut Apple Soup!
After learning so much about Chestnut Trees, Papa Gene suggested taking a walk over the hill to the farm house where my grandmother lived. There are several black walnut trees, a few pecan trees and at least one Chinese chestnut, that for years provided protein and food, not for squirrels and deer, but for a large hungry family. We found the ground literally covered with Black Walnut husks, some yellow, and some black. We could barely take a step without crushing one. When they first fall they are a golden color and a slightly lemony scent. As they continue to ripen they turn black. We picked up a few to bring home to investigate! A brief walk past the pond and the ground was similarly covered with pecans. A veritable feast! We took a few pictures. And before heading back, Grace spent a moment on the swing in the maple tree.
The black walnut itself is a tough nut to crack. But worth the trouble because they are tremendously healthy. In fact, I felt a little guilty about not gathering more of the husks when I found out just how healthy. We recently watched The Waltons (the original movie with Patricia Neal) and I chuckled to see John Boy and the young’uns gathered around a big basket full of black walnuts, cracking them to be baked in Olivia’s famous Applesauce Cake for Christmas Dinner. (Here is a link to the recipe!)
Grace and I both really enjoyed learning about Chestnuts and Black Walnuts, and are thinking more seriously about learning more about harvesting, and preparing these extraordinarily healthy nuts!
Have to include this:
Chestnuts Roasting…Nat King Cole
Grace and I participate in the Outdoor Nature Challenges hosted by Barb at the Handbook of Nature Study blog! She inspires us to slow down and look around! Love that!