Chestnuts are my first love in the realm of nut trees. Castanea Mollissima are reliable annual bearers, incredibly productive, and exceptionally easy to grow. The longest lived chestnut ever recorded is at least 2000 years old (Castanea Sativa, dubbed the “hundred horse chestnut” in Sicily), and the highest yielding Chinese chestnut on record dropped an incredible 1100 pounds in one year!! That's over a million delicious, mineral dense calories in one season! Not to mention they are very reliable producers that rarely take a year off. On top of that squirrels are rather hesitant in contending with the spiny protective husk that keeps the chestnut safe until it is fully ripe. This means that unlike hazelnuts, with chestnuts you won't have to worry nearly as much about squirrel protection.
They are very similar in their nutrient profile to rice or corn. Some people refer to chestnuts as a “grain on a tree”, and their culinary applications range from simply steaming or roasting the whole nuts for a carbohydrate rich sweet treat, to seeing and powdering them for use as a gluten free flour. In their flour form they make excellent pancakes, batter for deep frying, or any range of gluten free (or glutenful!) confections and baked goods. At Plant Path Nursery they are one of our top 3 foods of the future!
They begin to produce around year 5 and start approaching peak productivity around year 20. These trees become quite large and can have sprawling canopies that reach 60’ in diameter or more. At 60’ x 60’ spacing only 12 trees per acre are required.
For farmers and homesteaders that want more chestnuts sooner, that spacing can be cut in half or even quarters with the intention of thinning out every other tree in 15 years and then again in another 15 years. However you decide to plant chestnuts they are a must have tree in any garden or orchard!
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