If you want to grow an interesting and attractive shade tree, that will also give you nutritious and tasty chestnuts to harvest, and you want a tree resistant to the chestnut blight that has devastated the American chestnut tree, then the Chinese Chestnut is your friend.
As its name tells us, the Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima) grows naturally in China, as well as in Taiwan and Korea. People in those countries have enjoyed the nuts for centuries. Our trees are grown from top-quality nuts, produced by trees with proven disease resistance, and this is a beautiful tree you will enjoy growing in your garden. There is a lot of interest these days in growing food at home, and the demand for this disease-resistant chestnut tree is enormous, while the supply is very limited. We suggest you order right away, as our stock will soon be gone.
Growing Chinese Chestnut Trees
The Chinese Chestnut is a broad, spreading deciduous shade tree, reaching 40 feet tall and wide, and sometimes eventually taller. It makes a beautiful ornamental shade tree on a lawn, in a larger garden, or as part of a woodland area, placed among existing native or exotic trees. The tree has attractive scented flowers in late spring, golden leaves in fall, and interested burr-like fruits containing edible nuts, harvested in fall and early winter.
There is growing interest in home food, and the Chinese Chestnut is an excellent source of chestnuts very similar to the well-known European and American chestnut, roasted on the fire at Christmas, candied, or baked into sweet or savory dishes. As a versatile and attractive tree, this is a great choice to make for your garden.
The Chinese Chestnut develops a strong central trunk, with radiating branches making a broad, low, rounded crown. The bark is dark brown, and the trunk and older branches develop deep, furrowed bark with a handsome, rugged look, making the tree attractive in winter too. The leaves are long and narrow, about 4 inches long and 1½ inches wide, although they can be as much as 8 inches long. They have small, soft teeth along the edge, and a thick, slightly waxy texture. They are similar to the leaves the American chestnut tree, but shorter, wider, and with smaller teeth, and in that tree the leaves are papery. In fall the leaves turn rich shades of golden yellow, making an attractive fall display in your garden. The new shoots and leaves are soft and hairy, more so than the American chestnut.
In late spring Chinese Chestnut trees flower, producing clusters of long, hanging shoots covered in small flowers. They have a distinctive smell, which some people enjoy, and others find less attractive. These shoots are up to 8 inches long, although they may be shorter, and there are several female flowers at the base of the shoot, with male flowers along the rest of it. The female flowers develop over summer into a cluster of one, two or three rounded fruits, with green soft spines all over them, a bit like a giant version of the burrs that cling to you from some weeds. These split open to reveal two or three glossy brown nuts, that can be up to 2 inches in diameter. These are the edible chestnuts, which fall naturally from the tree when ripe, still inside the open burrs.
Planting and Initial Care
The Chinese Chestnut grows best in full sun, in moist, well-drained soil. Keep your tree regularly watered as it develops, to make it more drought-resistant in later years. If you are growing for the chestnut harvest it pays to water during dry spells in summer, or the chestnuts may be small. This tree grows well in summer heat and humidity too, and it is cold hardy right through zone 4. An important reason to choose the Chinese Chestnut to grow, rather than the American one, is that this species is resistant to the terrible chestnut blight disease (Endothia parasitica) which destroyed millions of American trees early last century. This is a fatal disease of the bark, and although not immune, Chinese chestnut trees rarely suffer it, or if they do become infected, they usually recover. This tree has no other significant pests or diseases and it is easy to grow and enjoy. For the maximum nut crop, plant two or more trees within two hundred feet of each other.
Harvesting and Storing Your Chestnuts
Harvest promptly, as squirrels love them too. Let the nuts dry a little and store them still in the shell. They will keep in the fridge for a month, and in the freezer for a year. There are lots of recipes for using chestnuts in the kitchen – they are delicious and nutritious for you, and children love them. Roast the nuts in their shells over a barbeque or fire, in a chestnut roaster pan, and shell them and eat them plain or with salt and butter while still warm – a great way to enjoy them on wintery days.