Sweet chestnuts, chestnuts

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The sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), also known as chestnut or noble chestnut, was originally distributed in Asia Minor, North Africa and Southern Europe. It is believed that it was first introduced to the arrival of the Romans in the Germania as a crop and native. Since the chestnut is very heat-loving and thrives best in the wine-growing climate, its natural range is limited since then on a relatively narrow corridor along the Rhine from the western slope of the Black Forest over the western Odenwald to the Mosel, Saar and Nahe. But it is used in almost all not too cold low mountain ranges as a forest tree.
Botanically, the sweet chestnut, like the oaks and the eponymous beech trees, belongs to the family of the red beech family (Fagaceae). The close relationship is also recognizable by some external features such as the spiny seed coat. The chestnuts themselves are reminiscent of oversized beechnuts. Sweet chestnuts, however, remain slightly smaller than beech trees: they are in this country only in climatically favorable locations up to 30 meters high and form in free standing sweeping, up to 20 meters wide crowns. The bark is olive green to greyish brown and the bark of thicker stems shows elongated cracks like the oaks. The alternate leaves are oblong lanceolate, roughly sawn and can be up to 20 inches long. In autumn, they turn yellow.


The chestnuts mature in spiny fruit shells

Sweet chestnuts form their flowers on this year's shoots. They are monoecious, that is, they are purely male and purely female flowers. These appear in June / July, however, close together in common inflorescences of up to four female and up to 20 male partial inflorescences.
The seeds of chestnuts are botanically seen nuts. The nutritive tissue, in contrast to most other nut species mainly carbohydrates, which is why chestnuts as food in the early Middle Ages had great importance. Especially in mountainous regions where grain cultivation was not possible, sweet chestnuts were usually dried in the smoke and ground into flour. It lasted up to two years and was an important winter food for humans. However, it is not suitable for baking, as it does not contain gluten.
The chestnuts or chestnuts are fruit varieties of sweet chestnut. They usually form only one big nut per fruit with a particularly sweet nourishing tissue. They are also easier to peel than the wild chestnuts and usually have no ingrown fruit skin. The first types of fruit were probably already selected in the early Middle Ages in the Italian-French Mediterranean region. From this region probably the name Maroni (French "marron") originate. For the home garden suitable fruit varieties such as 'Marigoule', 'Bouche Rouge' and 'Bouche de Bétizac' are also from France. In addition, the Austrian breeds 'Tisenser' and 'Ecker' are also recommended.

Location and ground

Sweet chestnuts need a sunny spot, but as younger plants they are also shade-tolerant. He should be protected, especially in colder regions something and have a favorable microclimate. The fruit varieties are not more sensitive to frost than apples, but they produce fewer fruits outside the wine-growing regions. Baskets are also a bit late frost sensitive, which is not a big problem because of their late budding.
The soil claims of sweet chestnuts are not very high. They grow best on humus rich, well drained soils that should not be too heavy and too moist. The pH should be more in the acidic range, as sweet chestnuts do not like calcareous substrates.

Planting and care

The planting hole should be at least twice the diameter of the root ball. Loosen the sole with a grave fork and set the tree so deep that the bale surface is at ground level. After thorough casting, spread a few handfuls of horn shavings and then mulch the tree slice with bark compost - it keeps moisture in the soil and lowers the pH value of calcareous substrates in the long term.
Since sweet chestnuts have a fairly high potassium requirement above all, one should fertilize the trees in the spring with garden compost. Two liters per square meter are usually sufficient. In autumn she protects a white coat from frost cracks through the winter sun.

Education and editing

Sweet chestnuts, like all fruit trees, should be properly trained at the youth stage. With this so-called educational cut, a so-called pyramidal crown is built up, as in the case of strongly growing apple trees and pear trees. One selects three to four main shoots growing at crown height in all directions and cuts them to about two-thirds of their length to promote the formation of side branches.The center drive is shortened about one to two inches across the tips of the shortened side shoots. To steeply towering side shoots should tie down in a shallower angle.
After the one-time upbringing and, if necessary, a few correction cuts in the following years, chestnuts no longer have to be cut regularly. They also bring abundant fruits to promising locations if left undisturbed. If necessary, you can use the crowns at any time - even during the summer months. Chestnuts used to be planted on the hive in the forest even after several years of harvesting - so they were simply cut off at a height of about one meter above the ground. They drive well even from thick trunks through again.

Sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) tree

Sweet chestnuts form spreading crowns and therefore require a lot of space


Maroons are very limited self-fertile, as the male and female flowers usually do not bloom on the same tree at the same time. One should therefore plant two to three trees of different varieties with the slightest possible offset flowering time. As a pollinator but also the wild species is eligible. The female flowers are fertilized by the wind as well as by bees. From fertilization to full maturity of the chestnuts, depending on the variety, a good 100 days pass. Refined fruit varieties often deliver the first chestnuts in the third or fourth year.

Harvest and recovery

The harvest time is very easy to determine for chestnuts, because the ripe chestnuts fall together with the burst, often slightly yellowish discolored shells to the ground - this is usually the case from late September to early October the case. When collecting, you must be fast depending on the location, so you do not preempt the squirrels and wild boars. You should also wear sturdy gloves, because the dried covers are extremely prickly.
Freshly harvested chestnuts are not very durable and should therefore be used promptly. The most practicable preserving method for hobby gardeners is freezing, but it is also possible to dry the fruits. If you want to roast chestnuts you first have to cut the nuts crosswise on the front side. To roast it is best to use a fire bowl with a wood fire already burnt down a bit and a special chestnut pan with a perforated bottom and a long handle. The chestnuts are roasted in the pan over the flames and occasionally swirled through until the peel can be easily detached from the starchy core. Sweet chestnuts contain mainly starch and sucrose as well as several essential amino acids. The fat content is relatively low, the potassium content quite high. Other healthy ingredients are the vitamins B2 and B3 - they are also preserved when toasting the chestnuts.

Roast chestnuts on grill

For example, chestnuts can be roasted on a perforated plate over an open fire


Sweet chestnuts can be easily multiplied by sowing the nuts. However, the seed varieties lose their typical varietal characteristics, and seed-propagated trees often only bear fruit after 15 to 20 years. The fruit varieties are therefore propagated exclusively by refinement, usually by the Okulation.

Diseases and pests

The chestnut bark crab is originally from China and was imported from the USA before World War II. Especially in southern Europe, he has destroyed many chestnut trees. However, this disease has been well managed by targeting less aggressive non-lethal forms of this fungus discovered by accident. The chestnuts 'Marigoule' and 'Marsol' are considered to be largely resistant.
The ink disease is caused by fungi of the genus Phytophora and occurs mainly on moist, impermeable soil. The mushrooms penetrate into the roots and prevent the water supply, so that first the leaves wither and later die whole crown parts. From the trunk then in places a dark liquid emerges, which is eponymous for the disease.
The chestnut drill is a weevil that eats the inside of the chestnuts. The worms in the pulp are the larvae of the chestnut worms. They have a similar development cycle as codling moths and can also be decimated with corrugated cardboard belts. Infested chestnuts are easy to identify: they swim up when dipped into the water after harvest.

Video Board: Marron Glacès recipe | How to make candied chestnuts | Receta | Video Recipe in English.

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