City farming with Castanea sativa, the sweet, beautiful and delicious chestnut

Charles II planted avenues of sweet chestnut in Greenwich Park in 1660 - and they continue to yield a good crop of delicious nuts

Charles II planted avenues of sweet chestnut in Greenwich Park in 1660 - and they continue to yield a good crop of delicious nuts

The yield from a mature woodland of Castanea sativa is similar to the yield of rice from a paddy field, both nutritionally and in terms of harvested weight:

  • Chestunt yields range from 1-5 tonnes per hectare (this figure could be raised by careful management).
  • A good individual chestnut tree may yield up to 25 kg per year.
  • Rice yields, in the Phillipines, were raised from 1.16 tons per hectare in 1960 (according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) to 3.59 tons per hectare in 2009. The yield from organic rice is about one third the yield for intensively farmed rice.
  • Chestnut timber is highly valued and is said to be more durable that oak when used outdoors.
  • The land beneath and around the chestnut trees in Greenwich Park was used for grazing deer, which provided organic  meat.
  • When growing chestnuts, you do not need to spend half your life bent double in muddy water being eaten alive by insects which enjoy the hot steamy conditions more than you do
  • Harvesting chestnuts provides healthy autumn exercise for urban populations

So here is my call to the world’s landscape architects: plant parks and road verges with Castanea sativa, the Sweet, Beautiful and Nutricious Chestnut Tree! You can make a substantial contribution to (1) world food supply (2) world biodiversity (3) combating global warming (4) nutrition, exercise and health. The health benefits of chestnuts are as follows:

  • Chestnuts, unlike other nuts and seeds, are relatively low in calories; contain less fat but are rich in minerals, vitamins and phyto-nutrients that benefit health.
  • Nutritionally, chestnuts are similar to other starchy foods such as sweet potato, sweet corn, potatoes etc, consisting of mainly starch. However, they also contain high quality proteins.
  • Chestnuts are good source of dietary fiber; they provide 8.1 g (about 21% of RDI) per 100 g. Fiber diet helps lower blood cholesterol levels by remove excess cholesterol absorbing in the intestines.
  • Chestnuts stand out from other nuts and seeds because of their nutrition contents. They are exceptionally rich in vitamin-C. 100 g nuts provide 43 mg of vitamin C (72 % of DRI). Vitamin C is essential for the formation of matrix in teeth, bones and blood vessels. Being a strong anti-oxidant, it offers protection from harmful free radicals.
  • Chestnuts are the one of the nuts rich in folates. 100 g nuts provide 62 mg of folates (or 15.5%). Folic acid is required for the formation of red blood cells, DNA synthesis. Adequate consumption of food rich in folates during peri-conception period helps prevent neural tube defects in the fetus.
  • Chestnuts are a rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty like oleic acid (18:1) and palmitoleic acids (16:1). Studies suggest that monounsaturated fats in the diet help lower total as well as LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels in the blood. Mediterranean diet which is rich in dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega fatty acids and antioxidants help prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
  • Chestnuts are an excellent source of minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. Provide very good amount of potassium (518 mcg / 100 g). Potassium helps counter hypertensive action of sodium, lowers heart rate and blood pressure. Iron helps prevent microcytic-anemia. Magnesium and phosphorus are important components of bone metabolism.
  • Chestnuts are also rich in many important B-complex groups of vitamins. 100 g of nuts provide 11% of niacin, 29% of pyridoxine (vit.B-6), 100% of thiamin, and 12% of riboflavin.
  • Chestnuts, like hazelnuts and almonds, are free in gluten and therefore popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten free food formulas for gluten-sensitive, wheat allergy and celiac disease persons.
  • The Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima) is particularly rich in vitamin A. It provides 202 IU per 100 g.

Price comparison: organic rice and organic chestnuts:

AND DON’T FORGET: Chestnuts are delicious.


20 thoughts on “City farming with Castanea sativa, the sweet, beautiful and delicious chestnut

  1. Adam Hodge

    Tom Delighted you are so enthusiastic about Castanea. I share your interest,especially as I’ve just finished a project for a private client, designing and planting a new park in about 10 acres of land which included a Castanea copse, with three intended functions..as a wind break for an Avenue of Magnolias, timber for firewood and finally.. nuts.

    Reply
  2. Tom Turner Post author

    Adam, thank you for the corrections. I am wondering if your Castanea copse might support some deer, though I know they are the gardener’s enemy in North America.

    Reply
  3. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you for the link – I have ordered a chestnut knife and a small chestnut pan – so I am looking forward to this year’s chestnut harvest even more than usual. The only problem is that collecting chestnuts in Greenwich Park gets more popular ever year and one has to be out early to get a good haul. Over half the collectors are Chinese.

    Reply
  4. Tom Turner Post author

    Macadamia nuts are very expensive in the UK – and pretty fattening too. Are they planted beside roads and in public open space in Australia (or are they worried about dogs eating them and being poisoned?)

    Reply
  5. Christine

    I don’t think the macadamia nut tree is common in urban areas.[ http://www.nudgelnuts.com.au/about/macadamia-history-and-botany/ ] Here is the best evidence I can find of the macadamia nut tree planted as a street tree. [ http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightcliff/3574474838/in/photostream/ ]

    “The Macadamia Nut prefers to grow in mild frost-free areas with a reasonably high rainfall. There have been records of planted specimens bearing fruit as far south as Sydney (Ryan 2006).”
    [ http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=7326 ]

    Reply
  6. Adam Hodge

    I have seen great acreages of managed Castanea woodland in France, on the northern escarpment of a village called Vinay, between Grenoble and Valence..it is used for firewood for the local villages

    Reply
  7. Tom Turner Post author

    Forest management techniques probably came to the British Isles with the Norman Conquest of 1066, and so far as I know have always been stronger in France than in England.

    Reply
  8. Christine

    Lets hope the management of our natural resources lends the future some amusing antedotes like the following of French forest management practices:

    “Louis XIV’s minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s oak forest at Tronçais, planted for the future use of the French Navy, matured as expected in the mid-19th century: “Colbert had thought of everything except the steamship,” Fernand Braudel observed.”

    Here is the wiki perspective on modern forest management conundrums:

    “Public perception of forest management has become controversial, with growing public concern over perceived mismanagement of the forest and increasing demands that forest land be managed for uses other than pure timber production, for example, indigenous rights, recreation, watershed management, and preservation of wilderness, waterways and wildlife habitat. Sharp disagreements over the role of forest fires, logging, motorized recreation and others drives debate while the public demand for wood products continues to increase.”

    Reply
  9. Tom Turner Post author

    Good joke about the steamship, though it ignores the many other uses for oak. Hardwood timber prices are still driven down by the ‘quarrying’ of hardwoods by clearing tropical forests. When this comes to an end, as it must, there will be a boom in timber prices. We should be thinking about Forest Cities and Forest Gardening and tele-commuting.

    Reply
  10. Christine

    Hopefully the REDD program [ http://www.un-redd.org/ ] will continue to make gains to ensure the preservation of tropical forests in danger of clearing and logging.

    In the US cities can get Tree City designation if they can demonstrate a commitment to maintaining the local urban forest and tree canopy cover. [ http://www.norwalkplus.com/nwk/information/nwsnwk/publish/News_1/Connecticut-DEP-announces-Tree-City-USA-designation_np_12850.shtml ]

    Four things are required:
    1) A Tree Board or Department
    2) A Community Tree Ordinance
    3) A Community Forest Program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita
    4) An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation

    The benefits of urban trees for climate modification and energy efficiency also need to be given greater attention in this the International Year of the Forest. [ http://www.ksallink.com/?cmd=displaystory&story_id=17248&format=html ]

    Reply
  11. Tom Turner Post author

    The idea of Forest Cities has to be climate-related. In a hot climate I would like to have a tree in my garden but in an often-chilly climate, like Britain’s, the garden plants and the garden people need as much as they can get. It is better to have trees at the north end of a garden than near the windows. But I think roof gardens need some kind of overhead canopy and I like the idea of making a Orchard City – with a flowery orchard at roof-top level and lots of spacae to enjoy the grass between the trees. Solar tubes could be used to bring light into the rooms beneath and there could be Camera Obscuras to bring in views of the orchards and the world outside.

    Reply
  12. christine

    I very much like to think of climate related Forest Cities. The palm trees of California are so much part of the essence of cities like Los Angeles. The don’t provide much shade, but they do provide a certain atmosphere. [ http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigmikelakers/3605659380/ ]

    The ability to have trees in a garden would perhaps not only be climate related, but again relate to allotment size. The gardens in terrace houses in London tend to be compact. [ http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4003/4422462390_3fd0bda264.jpg ]

    So the potential for ‘green’ gentrification of existing typologies is a particular challenge for the landscape profession. [ http://www.london-architecture.info/LO-018.htm ]

    In some cases perhaps communal gardens behind terraces could provide greater amenity than a row of individual gardens?

    Consider if the row of terraces were connected by an edge tree lined
    gravel walk [ http://austenonly.com/2010/08/09/the-georgian-garden-the-gravel-walk-bath/ ] which provided connection between individual walled/screened micro-flower gardens at a slightly higher level close to each terrace. Some terraces may provide opportunities also for roof gardens?

    These gardens could be connected by (contemporary) glazed rear garden ‘conservatories’ at ground level and overlooked from the second level by (contemporary) Juliet balconies or glazed bay windows.

    Reply

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