I had thought that American chestnuts were a thing of the past. Oh sure, I had heard that chestnut trees were coming back, but I didn’t know that orchards were producing domestic nuts.
I am happy to report that chestnut trees are alive and well in North Carolina, and producing a bountiful harvest.
Well, technically these trees are hybrids–American chestnuts grafted onto Chinese, blight-resistant trees, but they are local, nonetheless.
I grew up eating castagnas, mostly around Christmas time. In my mind, chestnuts were always an Italian thing. It was only after I met my wife’s father, and started to visit up in the mountains of North Carolina, that I learned that once upon a time, mountain roads in Southern Appalachia were dotted with roadside shacks selling roasted chestnuts.
So it’s a heartwarming convergence for me to have found chestnuts at a roadside produce stand the other day. After dinner,
I roasted a tray–no, not on an open fire… it’s a little too warm for that. But I have to say, the smell and taste put me in mind of other times–my own, and others’.
Before the blight, one in ten trees in the US Eastern hardwood forest was an American chestnut! There’s a restoration orchard at Biltmore I hope to visit someday.
I’m not sure where these chestnuts came from, other than somewhere in the state. It looks like quite a few chestnut orchards have sprung up!