Chestnut – sweet-tasting nut
Chestnuts are tall trees that produce sweet-tasting nuts and useful wood. There are four species of chestnut tree: American, European, Chinese, and Japanese.
Chestnut trees can grow to a height of about 30 meters. The bark has deep grooves. The leaves are shiny green and oval-shaped with pointed edges. The nuts are found inside green, cupshaped structures with a spiky shell.
In Geneva there is a tradition to declare the coming of spring when the first leaf appears on the “official chestnut tree”. The tradition is more than 2 centuries old. According to statistics, most often spring was announced in March. However, in 2002 the leaves appeared on December 29. 2006 was the most paradoxical year: first the spring was announced in March, and then again in October, as the tree suddenly blossomed again.
Horse chestnut trees are not related to the true chestnuts. It is a tree that can grow as tall as about 35 m, and is native to Asia and southeastern Europe. It has attractive, whitish flowers, that develop in the springtime. The flowers produce large quantities of nectar, and are insect pollinated. The fruits of the horse chestnut are greenish, leathery, spiny capsules containing one or two large seeds. These seeds are not edible by humans, but they are eaten by various species of wild animals.
Some people attribute medicinal qualities to the fruits and flowers of the horse chestnut. They are used in folk medicines to treat hemorrhoids, ulcers, rheumatism, neuralgia, and fever, and as a general tonic.
There are ten species of sweet chestnuts. All species prefer warm sites and grow best on light soils and sunny aspects. The trees live to five hundred years or sometimes longer. The light brown timber may be offered as “oak” but is not as strong as oak.
Interesting facts about chestnut
– In 1969, a chestnut became the emblem of Kiev.
– The oldest and thickest tree in the world grows in Sicily. Its age is from 2000 to 4000 years and it is 57.9 m in diameter.
– Chestnut is the only nut which contains vitamin C. It is also rich in carbohydrates.
– Chestnuts were called “rice growing on trees” because their nutritional properties turned out to be extremely similar to brown rice.
– Chinese eat 40% of all chestnuts in the world. They bake them in hot sand, stew and cook in soups.
– The alchemists believed that the chestnut had the magical power. A talisman made of wood or just a piece of a chestnut branch brings luck.