Castanea sativa Mill.
* Castanea vesca
* Gard. dict. ed. 8: Castanea no. 1. 1768
Castanea sativa is a species of the flowering plant family Fagaceae, the tree and its edible seeds are referred to by several common names such Sweet Chestnut or Marron. Originally native to southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, it is now widely dispersed throughout Europe. The trees are hardy, long lived and well known, especially for its chestnuts which are used as an ingredient in cooking.
A species of the genus Castanea, chinkapins and chestnuts, which is contained by the diverse Fagaceae family of beech and oak trees. The first description was by Phillip Miller in 1768. Castanea sativa is referred to as a Chestnut, which is distinguished as the Spanish Chestnut, Portuguese Chestnut, European chestnut.
Castanea sativa is a medium-sized to large deciduous tree attaining a height of 20-35 m with a trunk often 2 m in diameter. The oblong-lanceolate, boldly toothed leaves are 16-28 cm long and 5-9 cm broad.
The flowers of both sexes are borne in 10-20 cm long, upright catkins, the male flowers in the upper part and female flowers in the lower part. In the northern hemisphere, they appear in late June to July, and by autumn, the female flowers develop into spiny cupules containing 3-7 brownish nuts that are shed during October. The female flowers eventually form a spiky sheath that deters predators from the seed. Some cultivars ("Marron de Lyon, Paragon' and some hybrids) produce only 1 large nut, rather than the average 2 to 4 nuts of edible size.[clarification needed] The bark often has a net-shaped (retiform) pattern with deep furrows or fissures running spirally in both directions up the trunk.
The tree requires a mild climate and adequate moisture for good growth and a good nut harvest. Its year-growth (but not the rest of the tree) is sensitive to late spring and early autumn frosts, and is intolerant of lime. Under forest conditions it will tolerate moderate shade well.
See also List of Lepidoptera that feed on chestnut trees
The leaves provide food for some animals, including Lepidoptera such as the case-bearer moth Coleophora anatipennella.
The species was originated in southern Europe, the Balkans and maybe regions nearby. The use as food and an ornamental tree caused it to be introduced throughout western Europe, localised populations and cultivation occur on other continents.
The raw nuts, with their pithy skin around the seed, are somewhat astringent. That skin can be relatively easily removed by quickly blanching the nuts after having made a cross slit at the tufted end. Once cooked they become delicious, developing, when roasted, a sweet flavour and floury texture not unlike sweet potato. The cooked nuts can be used by confectioners, puddings, desserts and cakes or eaten roasted. They are used for flour, bread making, a cereal substitute, coffee substitute, a thickener in soups and other cookery uses, as well as for fattening stock. A sugar can be extracted from it. The Corsican variety of polenta (called pulenta) is made with sweet chestnut flour. A local variety of Corsican beer also uses chestnuts. The product is sold as a sweetened paste mixed with vanilla, crème de marron, sweetened or unsweetened as chestnut purée or purée de marron, and candied chestnuts as marron glacés. Roman soldiers were given chestnut porridge before entering battle.
Leaves infusions are used in respiratory diseases and are a popular remedy for whooping cough. A hair shampoo can be made from infusing leaves and fruit husks.
This tree responds very well to coppicing, which is still practised in Britain, and produces a good crop of tannin-rich wood every twelve to thirty years, depending on intended use and local growth rate. The tannin renders the young growing wood durable and resistant to outdoor use, thus suitable for posts, fencing or stakes. The timber of the species is marketed as chestnut. The wood is of light colour, hard and strong. It is also used to make furniture, barrels (sometimes used to age balsamic vinegar), and roof beams notably in southern Europe (for example in houses of the Alpujarra, Spain, in southern France and elsewhere). Due to older wood's tendency to split and warp badly, and acquiring a certain brittleness, it is not frequently used in large pieces. The timber has a density of 560 kg per cubic meter, and due to its durability in ground contact is often used for external purposes such as fencing. It is also a good fuel, though not favoured for open fires as it tends to spit.
Tannin is found in the following proportions on a 10% moisture basis: bark (6.8%), wood (13.4%), seed husks (10 - 13%). The leaves also contain tannin.
The tree was a popular choice for landscaping in England, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The flowering period is between June and July in this country. Castanea sativa was probably introduced to the region during the Roman occupation, and many ancient examples are recorded.
A tree grown from seed may take twenty years or more before it bears fruits, but a grafted cultivar such as 'Marron de Lyon' or 'Paragon' may start production within five years of being planted. Both cultivars bear fruits with a single large kernel, rather than an average of two to four smaller kernels.
* American chestnut
1. ^ a b Miller. Gardeners Dictionary ed. 8 no. 1 (1768)
* Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License