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Castanea sativa - Mill.                
                 
Common Name Sweet Chestnut, European chestnut
Family Fagaceae
Synonyms C. vesca. C. vulgaris. Fagus castanea.
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Woods in mountains[100].
Range S. Europe. Long naturalized in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Castanea sativa is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in July, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Bees.It is noted for attracting wildlife.


USDA hardiness zone : 5-7


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Castanea sativa Sweet Chestnut, European chestnut


Castanea sativa Sweet Chestnut, European chestnut
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maroni.jpg
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Canopy;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Seed.
Edible Uses: Coffee;  Sweetener.

Seed - raw or cooked[2, 4, 5, 9, 12, 34]. A somewhat astringent taste raw, it improves considerably when cooked and is delicious baked with a floury texture and a flavour rather like sweet potatoes[K]. The seed is rich in carbohydrates, it can be dried, then ground and used as a flour in breads, puddings, as a thickener in soups etc[7, 63, 132, 183]. The roasted seed can be used as a coffee substitute[183]. A sugar can be extracted from the seed[183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antidiarrhoeal;  Antiinflammatory;  Astringent;  Bach;  Expectorant.

Although more commonly thought of as a food crop, sweet chestnut leaves and bark are a good source of tannins and these have an astringent action useful in the treatment of bleeding, diarrhoea etc. The leaves and bark are anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant and tonic[4, 7, 165]. They are harvested in June or July and can be used fresh or dried[4]. An infusion has been used in the treatment of fevers and ague, but are mainly employed for their efficacy in treating convulsive coughs such as whooping cough and in other irritable conditions of the respiratory system[4, 7]. The leaves can also be used in the treatment of rheumatism, to ease lower back pains and to relieve stiff muscles and joints[254]. A decoction is a useful gargle for treating sore throats[254]. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Extreme mental anguish', Hopelessness' and 'Despair'[209].
Other Uses
Basketry;  Fuel;  Hair;  Starch;  Tannin;  Wood.

Tannin is obtained from the bark[46, 223]. The wood, leaves and seed husks also contain tannin[223]. The husks contain 10 - 13% tannin[223]. On a 10% moisture basis, the bark contains 6.8% tannin and the wood 13.4%[223]. The meal of the seed has been used as a source of starch and also for whitening linen cloth[4]. A hair shampoo is made from the leaves and the skins of the fruits[7]. It imparts a golden gleam to the hair[7]. Wood - hard, strong, light. The young growing wood is very durable, though older wood becomes brittle and liable to crack[4]. It is used for carpentry, turnery, props, basketry, fence posts etc[4, 6, 7, 23, 46, 100]. A very good fuel[6].
Cultivation details                                         
Prefers a good well-drained slightly acid loam in a sunny position but it also succeeds in dry soils[1, 11, 200, 238]. Once established, it is very drought tolerant[1, 11, 200, 238]. Plants are very tolerant of highly acid, infertile dry sands[200]. Averse to calcareous soils but succeeds on harder limestones[11, 200]. Tolerates maritime exposure though it is slower growing in such a position[75]. The dormant plant is very cold-hardy in Britain, though the young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender[K]. The sweet chestnut is often cultivated for its edible seed in warm temperate zones, there are several named varieties[46, 183]. Both 'Marron de Lyon' and 'Paragon' produce fruits with a single large kernel (rather than 2 - 4 smaller kernels) and so are preferred for commercial production[238]. Sweet chestnuts require a warm dry summer in order to ripen their fruit properly in Britain[63] and even then these seeds are generally inferior in size and quality to seeds grown in continental climates[4]. Most species in this genus are not very well adapted for the cooler maritime climate of Britain, preferring hotter summers, but this species grows well here[11, 200]. An excellent soil-enriching understorey in pine forests[200]. Flowers are produced on wood of the current year's growth[229] and they are very attractive to bees[7].. Plants are fairly self-sterile[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. At one time this tree was widely grown in coppiced woodlands for its wood, but the practise of coppicing has fallen into virtual disuse[11]. Trees regrow very quickly after being cut down, producing utilizable timber every 10 years. This species is not often seen in Cornwall though it grows very well there[59]. Trees take 30 years from seed to come into bearing[98]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - where possible sow the seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in a seed bed outdoors[78]. The seed must be protected from mice and squirrels. The seed has a short viability and must not be allowed to become dry. It can be stored in a cool place, such as the salad compartment of a fridge, for a few months if it is kept moist, but check regularly for signs of germination. The seed should germinate in late winter or early spring. If sown in an outdoor seedbed, the plants can be left in situ for 1 - 2 years before planting them out in their permanent positions. If grown in pots, the plants can be put out into their permanent positions in the summer or autumn, making sure to give them some protection from the cold in their first winter[K].
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
Mill.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
11100200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[6]Mabey. R. Plants with a Purpose.
Details on some of the useful wild plants of Britain. Poor on pictures but otherwise very good.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[12]Loewenfeld. C. and Back. P. Britain's Wild Larder.
A handy pocket guide.
[23]Wright. D. Complete Book of Baskets and Basketry.
Not that complete but very readable and well illustrated.
[34]Harrison. S. Wallis. M. Masefield. G. The Oxford Book of Food Plants.
Good drawings of some of the more common food plants from around the world. Not much information though.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[59]Thurston. Trees and Shrubs in Cornwall.
Trees and shrubs that succeed in Cornwall based on the authors own observations. Good but rather dated.
[63]Howes. F. N. Nuts.
Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.
[75]Rosewarne experimental horticultural station. Shelter Trees and Hedges.
A small booklet packed with information on trees and shrubs for hedging and shelterbelts in exposed maritime areas.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[98]Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs.
Very comprehensive guide to growing trees and shrubs from seed. Not for the casual reader.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[132]Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth.
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[209]Chancellor. P. M. Handbook of the Bach Flower Remedies
Details the 38 remedies plus how and where to prescribe them.
[223]Rottsieper. E.H.W. Vegetable Tannins
A fairly detailed treatise on the major sources of vegetable tannins.
[229]Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
Wed Mar 8 2006
Please correct the spelling of Chetsnut (as it doesn't come up on the list unless you know the Latin name!). Thanks
Trevor P.
Ecology and Epidemiology Saprophytic Activity and Sporulation of Cryphonectria parasitica on Dead Chestnut Wood in Forests with Naturally Established Hypovirulence Oct 21 2010 12:00AM
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