Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree

As you will have gathered from our cider making foray at the weekend, I am recovering well from my latest operation.  It is a frustratingly slow old business, but given that I have had four operations, numerous infections and almost continuous courses of antibiotics I suppose it is not surprise that it is taking me a while to get back to what passes for normal.  I am particularly irritated as I cannot keep up with my head which is gallivanting around all over the place.  Apart from when I have exhausted myself.  Which is quite frequently now I come to think about it.

Anyway.  I have been very keen to be out enjoying the beautiful weather we have been having.  It has been Autumn at her very best.  All golden light from the ‘maturing sun’ and ‘fruit with ripeness to the core’.  Forgive me, but did you really expect me to write about Autumn and NOT quote John Keats?  I am not to be trusted out alone at present.  Some may say this should be a permanent thing.  However, the current excuse is my vision.  My double vision is sufficiently bad that I really do need to have someone with me.  Just in case.  On Sunday I persuaded the Captain to take me for a walk.  Today I pressed the incredibly soon to be eighteen year old into service.  This may have been a mistake.  Having realised he had no option, he stood in the hall, while I had gone to fetch my bag, and yelled, “Walkies!”

Still, on both occasions we had a lovely time.  My aim was to gather chestnuts.  I do not know if it is just where we live, but there are a great many Sweet Chestnut trees in my locality.

This pleases me a great deal.  My local Tesco sells them for £6.99 per kilo but my local park literally is carpeted in them.

On each of my walks I have come back with a bag groaning with nuts.

Apparently the traditional way to get to the nuts is to tread on the spiky cases and make them pop out but I have not been able to master this technique.  I suspect it is because the chestnut trees are part of a coppice of several other trees including pine and oak so the ground is soft and mulchy.

When I went with the Captain I forgot the first rule of foraging: always take gloves.  And so scratched my hands to pieces because I could not have left the chestnuts on the ground.  Obviously.  Today I was better equipped.  But I was banned from taking my basket.  Birthday boy drew the line at that insisting that his street cred could barely cope with taking his mother for a walk.  It would not recover from being seen with her carrying a basket.  Apparently.  Whether his legs will recover from being spiked by the chestnut shells that poked through the bag remains to be seen.  But at least he carried it.

I shelled Sunday’s gatherings and spread them on my laundry airer as it hangs out of the way.  It’s perfect for drying things and I suspect will be used far more for drying flowers and nuts than ever it was for clothes.  I read somewhere that once dried for a couple of days, the nuts kept well until ready for using. I do not actually intend to dry the nuts, partly because I have since failed to find this piece of advice, but mainly because I think I will be making flour with my harvest tomorrow.  I shall let you know how I get on.


6 thoughts on “Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree

  1. I’ll be very interested in the results – we have a sweet chestnut tree in our field – I’m always threatening to ‘do something’ with the fruit though the local squirrels seem to make the best of it!

    Sue, nb Indigo Dream

  2. Sweet Chestnuts seem to be a big thing in Europe.

    More foraging on the radio today, in You and Yours 12:00 to 13:00, mushrooms in the New Forest.

  3. Chestnuts make a wonderful stew. We prefer to use venison but beef or lamb would work. Just make a normal stew with meat & veg but add two magic ingredients, chestnuts and prunes, preferably marinated for a couple of days in brandy first! Add some of the prunes and chestnut from the start and they will cook down and provide a wonderfully thick and rich gravy. We then like to add some more towards the end of cooking so that they stay whole and add texture and contrasting flavours. The brandy from the marinade can either be kept for the next time, drunk neat or added to the stew.

    P.s. which park did you find them in?

    • Thanks for this, Graham. I shall try this one day as it sounds delicious. Sutton Park, West Midlands is where I found them. It’s a huge sprawling urban park that is mostly heathland but has some wooded areas too. I’ve marked them on the forage.rs map.

  4. Silly me, the squirrels have already had the chestnuts! That’s 3 trees’ worth (one in our garden and two on the fence-line). So much for the greyhounds protecting the crops from rodents 🙂

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