American Sweet Chestnut (Castanea dentata)

Tree
C. americana.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
American Sweet Chestnut
Castanea dentata
Fagaceae

The bark is a good source of tannin[46, 61, 171, 223]. The dried leaves contain 9% tannin[213]. The wood and the seed husks also contain tannin[223]. The husks contain 10 – 13% tannin[223].

A brown dye is obtained from the bark[257].

Wood – soft, not strong, light, very durable, liable to warp. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot. Easy to split, it is used for making cheap furniture, fence posts, in construction etc[61, 82, 117, 171, 229, 235].

  • Medicinal Use

    A warm water infusion of the leaves has been used to calm the respiratory nerves and promote expectoration[213, 257]. The infusion has also been used in the treatment of whooping cough but modern opinion is that the leaves are no more than a mild astringent[213].

  • Edible Use

    Seed – raw or cooked[2, 62, 63, 102, 117]. Rather on the small side, but these are the sweetest seeds of any species in this genus[183]. The seed contains about 7% fat, 11% protein[159]. It can be dried, ground into powder and then be added to cereals when making bread, cakes etc[213].

    A delicious oil can be extracted from the seed by crushing the nuts, boiling them in water and then skimming off the oil as it comes to the surface[213]. It can be used as a topping for various puddings[213].

    The roasted nut can be used as a coffee substitute and a chocolate substitute can also be made from it[183] (no further details).

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

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].
Prefers a good well-drained slightly acid loam but succeeds in dry soils and in hot sunny sites[1, 11, 188, 200]. Once established, it is very drought tolerant[11, 200]. Very tolerant of highly acid, infertile dry sands[200]. Averse to calcareous soils but succeeds on harder limestones[11, 200]. Although it is very winter-hardy, this species only really thrives in areas with hot summers[200]. A tree at Kew in 1985 was 15 metres tall and thriving[11]. At one time widely cultivated in N. America for its edible seed, it is now virtually extinct in the wild due to chestnut blight[11]. There are some named varieties[183]. Trees are possibly becoming resistant, some suckering stands in America are producing fruit[11]. Suckers often reach 4 – 6 metres tall before succumbing to blight, but they rarely manage to produce fruit[229]. An excellent soil-enriching understorey in pine forests[200]. Flowers are produced on wood of the current year’s growth[229]. Plants are fairly self-sterile[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
Eastern N. America – Maine and Ontario to Michigan, Georgia and Arkansas.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.