Sweet Buckeye (Aesculus flava)

Tree
Ae lutea. Ae octandra.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Sweet Buckeye
Aesculus flava
Hippocastanaceae

Saponins in the seed are used as a soap substitute[169]. The saponins can be easily obtained by chopping the seed into small pieces and infusing them in hot water. This water can then be used for washing the body, clothes etc. Its main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts[K].

Wood – very soft, light, close grained, difficult to split. It weighs 27lb per cubic foot[235]. It is used for making artificial limbs, wooden ware, pulp etc, and is occasionally sawn into lumber[46, 62, 82, 171].

  • Medicinal Use

    None known

  • Edible Use

    Seed – cooked. Said to be as sweet as a chestnut[105, 177]. We have only eaten the immature seed, harvested in late August, but these were very tasty with no noticeable bitterness[K]. The seed can be up to 45mm in diameter and is easily harvested[82]. It can be dried, ground into a flour and used as a gruel. The seed contains saponins and needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the North American Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days[213, 229]. The resulting product is said to be tasty and nutritious[229], though most of the minerals etc would have been leached out[K].

    The flowers contain a sweet nectar which is delicious when sucked out[245].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown outdoors or in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[11, 80]. The seed germinates almost immediately and must be given protection from severe weather[130]. The seed has a very limited viability and must not be allowed to dry out. Stored seed should be soaked for 24 hours prior to sowing and even after this may still not be viable[80, 113]. It is best to sow the seed with its ‘scar’ downwards[130]. If sowing the seed in a cold frame, pot up the seedlings in early spring and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer.
Prefers a deep loamy well-drained soil but is not too fussy[1, 11]. Grows best in eastern and south-eastern areas of England probably needing a continental climate in order to thrive[126, 200]. Although the trees are very hardy when dormant, the new growth can be damaged by late spring frosts[11]. Plants grow well in a woodland situation, tolerating shading by larger trees[229]. Seedlings grow away quickly, the plants reaching maturity when about 60 – 80 years old[229]. The form Asculus flava vestita (Sarg.)Fern. is growing well at Kew Gardens. It has been seen with large crops of fruit on a number of occasions, even in cooler summers. These fruits have only been tried when immature (harvested at the end of August) but were then very tasty with no bitterness[K]. Fruits are produced more abundantly in warm summers[130]. Most members of this genus transplant easily, even when fairly large[11].
Eastern N. America – Pennsylvanica to Tennessee and west to Ohio.

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.