Chestnuting—The Chestnut-Tree

Many a reader will stop as he sees the fine engraving of a nutting party, which Mr. Perkins enables us to give on the following page, and recall the time in which he participated in such a scene. How vividly all presents itself in memory; the fine air of the clear autumn morning; the golden burs of the chestnuts shining against the dark green leaves; the pleasant “woodsy” smell; the climbing and beating the trees; the gathering the nuts; the pricking with the burs; the young companions– and all that go to make up a happy day at chestnuting. Leaving the picture to tell its story of a nutting frolic, we say a word in favor of the tree itself.

The chestnut is neither the best of timber, nor the best of fuel, but it is valuable for both these uses. For fencing it answers an excellent purpose, and its lumber is now in great request for interior finishing. Its wood makes a valuable charcoal; its fruit is always in demand, and brings a good price. Two great points in favor of the chestnut are the rapidity of its growth, and the readiness with which it renews itself after being cut down. It grows freely in any soils that are not too wet, and is hardy over a wide extent of country, it being found native from the 43d parallel to as far south as Florida. The chestnut presents many claims to those who are interested in tree planting, not only as valuable for the treeless portions of the West, but for those lands of the East which can only be made remunerative by covering them with forests: the great obstacle to its introduction has been the difficulty of procuring the seed or the plants.

The seeds are not usually kept by seedsmen, as they soon become worthless, and unless one has friends in a locality where chestnuts grow, they are not easy to obtain. As to the matter of plants, we notice that Messrs. Storrs, Harrison & Co., of Painesville, O., make a specialty of them, and offer them at moderate prices. Those who wish to grow the trees from the seed, should make arrangements to procure the nuts as soon as ripe, and they may be sown as soon as received. A wide drill is opened and the nuts scattered rather thickly, the spaces between them are to be filled by sprinkling soil among them, and then covering with two or three inches of leaves. In the spring the greater portion of the leaves is to be raked off, and when the young plants have grown an inch or two, fine soil is drawn up to them. Squirrels, gophers, and mice, will destroy the nuts if they discover them, and in localities where these pests abound, the seeds must be kept until the spring. They should be mixed with three times their bulk of dry sand. They are said to retain their vitality if packed in perfectly dry moss. The chestnut can be readily transplanted if removed, are quite as likely to live as most other deciduous trees.

Our native chestnut is a variety of the European, differing in the size of its fruit. The fruit of ours is much smaller, but at the same time superior in sweetness and flavor. There is a great difference in the product of our wild trees, some of them yielding fruit twice the size of the average. There is no doubt that by selection and cultivation, the size of the nuts of the American variety could be greatly improved.

American Agriculturist for the Farm, Garden, and Household. October 1870 New York