Sunday, October 10, 2010

That old chestnut

The chestnuts are falling! The chestnuts are falling! Really, you have to watch out when you're walking in the woods. They hurt when they hit you on the head. Sometimes the nut falls out of the husk, but most of the time the whole spiky thing comes crashing down. I can usually hear them falling before they hit and get out of the way. But not always.

The spiked husk of a chestnut, still on the tree, but opened with chestnut gone.

They also fall on the road down the hill from our house. Crushed and mashed chestnuts cover the road until winter's rains wash them away. Chestnuts are good to eat, whether roasted on a open fire (yes, they do that here) or cooked into a stuffing or soup. But you can only eat so many chestnuts. And they're a lot of trouble to deal with. It's easier just to buy them in a jar when you want some.

A divided chestnut still in its husk.

In French, chestnuts are called châtaignes or marrons. The big round ones are the best for eating and they are the ones referred to as marrons. Most of the châtaigniers (chestnut trees) growing around us produce smaller fruits, and often have two or more divided inside the husk (photo above). That makes them less desirable for eating.

There's also the marron d'Inde (India chestnut) imported to western Europe in the seventeenth century. That one is is toxic, so you want to stay away from it. Marrons d'Inde have different looking husks (less spiny) but are otherwise very similar looking to edible chestnuts.


  1. I've never seen anything but the nuts inside the husk. Great photos.

  2. There's a "museum of silk" in a village in the Cevennes (don't recall which village) that really seemed to me to be about the chestnut. The locals used the trees for all things necessary to survival, including as hiding places during various religious wars.

  3. Walt, Marron d'inde is also called the Horse Chestnut [Aesculus hippocastanum] and is the one that you play 'Conkers' with. It is also used for dyeing.

  4. I know I will date myself here, and you probably won't believe that anyone can remember this far back, but when I was in Kindergarten I was in the play about the Little Red Hen (famous for speaking the original lines, "the sky is falling" which you quote)....I had one speaking line, I think it was, "Look! Over there!"....or something....Hahhaha.

    They told me Ed Sullivan was in the audience. Yeah, my parents are a riot!!!!

  5. starman, there are probably chestnut trees, or horse chestnut trees, somewhere around in Paris, maybe in the Luxembourg Gardens or other parks/cemetaries? Now is the time to get a look!

    judy, they do, don't they? :)

    chris, not surprised. Lots of chestnuts down there.

    tim, yes, Ken told me the same. I had always known the term "horse chestnut," but never really knew what it meant.

    lynn, funny story!

  6. LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEE these photos.. In fact, I was thinking of them the other day on my walk to my student's house.. I saw some of these casings with seeds inside and almost stopped to take pics ... BUT, I needed my macro lens for the job!


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