Chestnuts + History
Since before our country’s founding, the American chestnut tree dominated the forests of the eastern U.S. The wood was strong, rot-resistant, and quick growing, promoting its use in building, and the nuts became an involved part of the American food culture with their harvesting season aligning with the winter holiday season. Until about 100 years ago, when almost the entire species was wiped out by chestnut blight- an airborne bark fungus that took out nearly 4 billion trees in only 40 years.
Since then, scientists have been working to develop a blight-resistant hybrid to repopulate the American chestnut trees. As we work to bring these magnificent trees back into the American ecosystem, we also hope to bring back the nut’s culinary role from our heritage and help them return to popularity with a higher percentage of locally sourced chestnuts than imported ones.
Chestnuts + Cooking
Chestnuts have been used and enjoyed around the world for centuries. They were once an extremely common part of the American diet, but after most of the population of American Chestnut trees was wiped out by blight at the beginning of the 20th century, they became simply poetic memories for stories and songs around the winter holidays.
Now, however, these beautiful treats are back, and we’re working to help make them as common as they were at the founding of our country.
While we have all heard about the beloved roasting of chestnuts, they can also be candied, steamed, boiled, pureed, and ground into flour for baking, among many other techniques. Chestnuts have a unique flavor and work really well as a gluten-free flour. They’re great for adding into chicken and rice dishes, adding a texture similar to that of chickpeas and a hint of sweetness.
We’re working to collect a series of recipes, tips, and videos to help you enjoy the multitude of ways that chestnuts can be prepared and enjoyed. Take a look at some of our recipes here!