Wow your friends and family as you share your chestnuts this harvest season with these seven nifty bits of chestnut trivia. Whether you’re a health nut or a history buff, read on to find out something new and interesting about your favorite fall snack.
Chestnuts in History
Legend has it that chestnuts once kept alive an entire army for almost two years. In 401 BC, a group of ten thousand Greek mercenaries was stranded behind enemy lines in Asia minor after the death of their leader, Cyrus the Younger. Left without a leader, the army had no choice but to retreat back to their homeland in Greece through the hostile Persian empire. Having no allies or trading partners, the army is reputed to have survived largely on vast stores of chestnuts.
The nut is not the only valuable part of the chestnut tree. The wood of the chestnut tree can make a beautiful and highly workable lumber. Especially after the chestnut blight of 1904, the wood of the chestnut tree has seen a surge in both price and popularity. Chestnut wood is often reclaimed from old barns and other structures and is highly sought after for its beauty, strength, and relative rarity.
In 1904 a chestnut blight swept through the United States killing almost all the native chestnut trees. In the following years, most all the American chestnut trees died. Over three billion trees fell victim to the blight, and as much as 25 percent of Appalachian forests died off. The tree was thankfully saved from extinction by a few hardy trees that managed to resist the blight’s almost total devastation.
Aside from being delicious, chestnuts are extremely healthy. They are low fat, low calorie, full of fiber, loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, as well as being gluten free. In fact, health is one of the biggest reasons behind the upsurge in popularity of the chestnut. Each nut also contains a great deal of potassium that can be used by the body to lower heartrate, control blood pressure, and promote good cardiovascular health.
So Many Choices
Chestnuts aren’t just a delicious and festive treat for Americans at Christmas time. There are about as many chestnut based dishes as there are people who love them. From the candied chestnuts of Italy and France, to gluten free chestnut beer being craft brewed in the U.S., ways abound to enjoy chestnuts. There is even chestnut bread!
The Hundred Horse Tree
The oldest chestnut tree in the world, the Hundred Horse Chestnut, is located on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. While it’s not uncommon for the chestnut tree to live for 800 to 1000 years, the Hundred Horse tree is reputed by some scholars to be as ancient as 4000 years old. The tree also set a Guinness world record when it was measured as being more than 190 feet around. The tree’s name comes from an old legend that the queen of Aragon once took refuge from a storm under the huge tree with her entire company of 100 knights.
The chestnut is not just valued for its nuts and wood; the leaves of the chestnut are a marvel in themselves. High levels of tannin in the chestnut leaves make it ideal for tanning of leather. The leaves and chestnut husks are also used in the production of cosmetic products such as shampoo. An extract of the nut itself can even be used for textile starching.
What do you know?
See something we forgot? Let us know your chestnut trivia in the comments.