American Chestnut Tree Information – How To Grow American Chestnut Trees
The American chestnut tree is native to North America. They are hardy trees with good resistance against disease and pests. They require little care and have long life span of up to 100 years.
The wood of an american chestnut tree is strong and durable, it’s used for furniture, musical instruments, car parts etc.
They are also known as the “Old Man of the Forest” because they provide shade to many other trees. They are considered one of the most beautiful trees in America due to their large size and beauty.
How To Grow An American Chestnut Tree?
There are several ways to grow an american chestnut tree. One way is by grafting two different species together. Another method is by growing them from seedlings or cuttings. There are many varieties of american chestnuts available in the market. Some of these include:
Cherry (Acer negundo)
Chestnut (Acer rubrum)
Maple (Acer saccharum)
How To Graft Two Species Together?
Grafting two different species together is not difficult at all. The first step is to identify which species you want to graft onto your tree. Each species has their own unique rootstock.
The next step is to choose the top most shoot which will be used to create a new tree. This part should be around 6 to 8 inches long and around an inch in diameter. Make sure the shoot is straight and hasn’t got any kinks in it.
Carefully cut the shoot off the parent tree making sure that you leave a couple of leaves at the bottom.
Finally prepare the rootstock by cutting off any side shoots and shaping it so that it matches the graft. The cuttings should make a tight fit together when joined. Use rubber bands to hold the cuttings together while the graft takes.
Once you have chosen your two species, prepare them according to the above method. Then join the two cuttings together. They should join together and form a straight line.
Once the two have been joined together, wrap them in electrical tape to keep the cuttings joined. Cover the tape with wax to ensure that it stays waterproof.
If you don’t want to use a rootstock, you can place both sets of cuttings in a special grafting mix. Make sure that they are well watered and keep an eye on them for the first few weeks.
How To Grow American Chestnut From Seedlings Or Cuttings?
The second way to grow an american chestnut tree is by growing them from seedlings or cuttings. The first thing you need to do is collect some seeds. This can be collected by spreading a sheet under the parent tree and collecting the nuts that fall. You must remember to do this before the squirrels get to them!
Once you have collected some nuts, you need to dry them out before planting. This can be done by keeping them in the sun for several weeks or using a food dehydrator. Once they are dry, plant them an inch deep and around three inches apart.
Keep the soil well watered but not sopping wet.
If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of collecting and drying the seeds then you can also buy cuttings from other trees. The process is very similar to the method for grafting two trees together.
What Type Of Soil Do They Like?
An American chestnut tree prefers a well drained soil that isn’t too acidic. You can tell if your soil is acidic by dropping a little bit of vinegar on it. If it fizzes, then it is too acidic. You can change the pH level by adding the correct type of soil amendment.
You should also try to ensure that the soil you are planting in is well drained. This cuts down on the risk of fungal diseases which can kill your newly planted tree.
Do American Chestnut Trees Need Pruning?
An American chestnut tree grows very tall and has a very wide canopy, so it won’t need pruning unless you are trying to contain its size. However, if you do need to contain it then you should start pruning when the tree is young.
Pruning American chestnut trees isn’t really necessary as they have no real lower branches. If you do decide to prune them, then you should do it in late winter.
They also don’t really require any type of pest or disease control, though you can treat them with a fungicide if needed.
When Should I Harvest My Chestnuts?
You will start to get chestnuts after around six years. You should be able to start harvesting them after seven or eight years. The nuts develop in spikes, so you need to collect these before the squirrels do!
It’s easiest if you wait until the spikes are brown and the outer husk is starting to break open. Check the nuts every day for maturity and pick as they become ready.
Make sure that you collect all of the nuts as you don’t want the squirrels to get them all!
How Should I Store And Eat My Chestnuts?
You can store your chestnuts in different ways. The easiest way is to keep them in a container covered with sand, sawdust or soil. This prevents them from drying out and helps to keep them fresh for longer.
You can also freeze them for later use. Place them in a container or bag and then freeze them. Thaw them out before you want to use them.
This is particularly good if you have a large amount that you need to store but don’t want to keep them all in your house!
There are many different ways to eat chestnuts. Some people like to just eat them out of their shell while others like to cook them and make different types of dishes with them.
One popular way of eating them is to roast them in the fire. You can also boil them or even fry them. Roasting them is particularly good if you are collecting a lot and need a quick way of preparing them for eating.
Chestnuts can be pretty bland on their own, so you may want to season them with butter, salt, pepper or other spices before eating.
What Conditions Do Chestnut Trees Need To Grow?
An American chestnut tree will grow in a variety of conditions. It prefers well drained soil, but it will also grow in soil which is less well drained. It will also grow in a range of soil pH, though it prefers neutral to slightly acidic soils.
It prefers areas which have long periods of moist soils, so forest edges and other areas with standing water are ideal locations to plant them. If you live in an area which has dry spells then you should try to plant them near a water source so they don’t dry out.
It also prefers areas which have full sun, but it will grow in part shade. It just won’t grow as well in these conditions.
It doesn’t grow well in hot areas, so the hotter parts of Australia are not ideal for growing this tree. Also, it can’t grow too close to the coast as the salt air is bad for it.
More Lush Times Ahead!
While we have seen how the chestnut blight destroyed the once plentiful chestnut forests across North America, we haven’t seen a decrease in chestnut trees and a lack of food in America.
This is because Japanese and Chinese Chestnut trees are resistant to the blight, so numerous crops of these trees were brought over from Asia and planted in America. These trees are still abundant and widely planted across America today!
So, if you ever find yourself with a sudden shortage of food growing up on your farm, you now know where you can go and grab some free chestnuts!
You don’t even need to ask permission from anyone, just start picking and eating! At least, until the squirrels get to them first!
If you do start a chestnut grove of your own, make sure that you leave some for others and don’t eat them all before winter! There are plenty of other hungry people out there!
Make Your Own Chestnuts
One thing you may want to try is making your own chestnut meal! While store-bought is readily available, it’s a lot cheaper to make your own. It’s also a fun family activity, so get the family involved!
A bag of chestnuts
A sharp knife (kitchen knife will do)
A sieve or some sort of strainer
A stove top
Chestnuts (obviously!) and as many as you want to make. One pound of chestnuts will give you around a cup and a half of meal.
So if you want to make two cups, get two pounds of chestnuts.
Make sure all your chestnuts are clean. If any of them have a bumpy, odd looking exterior then throw it away as it is probably rotten inside. Also discard any chestnuts which are moldy or look rotten in anyway.
Peel the chestnuts. You can do this by hand, but it can be a bit fiddly. A faster way is to put them into a plastic bag and then lay them on a hard surface, such as a driveway. Then run over them with a car! (Please don’t actually do this!) This will crack their shells very easily and you can just pick up the pieces that come off. Put the chestnuts into a bowl. Fill the bowl with water and let the chestnuts soak for five minutes. This releases an enzyme which helps break down the shell. If you skip this step then you’ll spend hours trying to peel the chestnuts and might still have a few that are unpeelable. Drain the water from the chestnuts and pick out any pieces of shell that didn’t come off. Now pour the chestnuts onto a sieve (strainer) and shake them. The peel should all be left in the sieve and the chestnut should fall through into a bowl underneath. You might find it easier if you turn the sieve (strainer) around as you are shaking it.
Here is a picture showing all these steps:
You can now add these chestnut flakes to your food or just eat them plain! They taste just like nuts!
What to Do With the Shells:
The chestnut shells can be put into paper bags and then put outside for the squirrels, birds and other wild animals to feast on. This is a great way to get rid of them!
That’s all there is to making your own chestnut meal! Chestnuts are a great and nutritious food which can be used in many different recipes. If you have a lot of chestnuts you might want to think about making some butter or ice cream too!
As always, be safe and enjoy your chestnuts!
Sources & references used in this article:
Comparison of the transcriptomes of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) and Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) in response to the chestnut blight … by A Barakat, DS DiLoreto, Y Zhang, C Smith, K Baier… – BMC plant biology, 2009 – Springer
Survival of American chestnut trees: evaluation of blight resistance and virulence in Endothia parasitica. by GJ Griffin, FV Hebard, RW Wendt, JR Elkins – Phytopathology, 1983 – apsnet.org
A conceptual framework for restoration of threatened plants: the effective model of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) reintroduction by DF Jacobs, HJ Dalgleish, CD Nelson – New Phytologist, 2013 – Wiley Online Library
Death of the American chestnut by GH Hepting – Journal of Forest History, 1974 – JSTOR
The backcross breeding program of the American Chestnut Foundation by FV Hebard – Restoration of American chestnut to forest lands, 2006 – books.google.com