What to do with horse chestnuts?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Antje, May 29, 2014.

  1. Antje

    Antje Junior Member

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    I have an ornamental red-blooming horse chestnut tree in my backyard. I would rather have a fruit tree in its place, but my parents paid a lot of money for that thing, so felling it is not an option anytime soon. At least it's pretty for a few weeks, and the bumblebees love it. I use the leaves for mulching our rhododendron bushes (they like acidic soil) and to protect my mint and strawberry patches from the worst frost. But I haven't found anything useful to do with the chestnuts yet. They don't compost well. I could carry them into the nearby woods to feed the deer, but last winter for example we had all of 2 weeks of frost and snow, which I spent being bedridden with bronchitis, so the bucket full I collected last year is now drying/molding and probably won't be edible next winter. Besides, what little hard-won fertility my soil has is based on not letting any organic matter (other than human excrements - composting toilets are illegal here) escape our property for as long as I've been alive.
    So, any suggestions what I could be doing with the chestnuts?
     
  2. Diggman

    Diggman Junior Member

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    Hi Anje,

    I can't advise much what can be done with them, only that I feel they don't really store well, my batch I collected for my niece last year all molded up after a couple of weeks!
    Also, here in UK there is a contaminating disease that the trees get affected by, it browns their leaves and makes the tree generally quite unhealthy, you can tell in the parks when the management have a concern for a horse chestnut, there would normally be a new tree recently planted very close by, meaning they are planning on having the tree removed sometime in the next few years because it seems the disease is untreatable. in most cases the new replacement tree is normally a different species so it seems they don't see this disease being eradicated anytime soon unfortunately :(
    Hopefully you guys on that side of Europe stay safe from this disease ?
     
  3. Antje

    Antje Junior Member

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    Are you talking about the chestnut leaf miner moth? We've got that, too (Where did you think you got it from?), and they're felling trees in the cities because of it. Though I remember when I was in university in Berlin, there were campaign posters in the subway stations trying to motivate people to collect the leaves to interrupt the life cycle of the moth. Don't know if that worked. But I think that the moth only attacks the white-blooming Common Horse Chestnut, not the red-blooming hybrid with Red Buckeye that we've got.
    ...Well, Wikipedia says that it also attacks Red Buckeye, though not quite as badly as Common Horse Chestnut. In any case, our tree doesn't have that pest (yet).

    It does currently have a bad case of mildew because of the very rainy May, far worse than I've ever seen before, but that didn't keep it from blooming or setting fruit. We'll see if it has long term consequences.


    And yeah, they get moldy or dry out and become black and wrinkly. Otherwise I'd keep them as a decorative element in a bowl, because fresh they are quite pretty - not simply brown like the ones of the white-blooming variant, but redish auburn with darker marbling, like the root wood panelling on fancy old furniture. But alas, the colouring doesn't keep.

    I tried using them as a gravel substitute to keep soil washing out of the holes in flower pots, but I fear the mold they get when wet will harm the plants' roots.
     
  4. Curramore1

    Curramore1 Junior Member

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    Are the fruit any good as stove fuel?
     
  5. Antje

    Antje Junior Member

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    Well, I suppose they might be, if you dry them really well. But the only place to burn stuff that I have is the fireplace - which does get some use, on cold days when the central heating is already switched off, like today. (It's a large brick construction designed to give off heat for hours, not one of those decorative little cast iron things.) But I really already have more fuel than I need for that. (lots of pinecones from my father's collection of various evergreens, dead walnut branches, walnut shells, dead evergreen branches, green juniper and thuja branches from trying to reduce the useless space-wasters in our garden, diseased fruit tree branches - all stuff that doesn't rot well or would poison my compost, but can be useful when turned into ash and a small amount of charcoal) We still haven't even gone through the 5 cubic meters of firewood my father made from the trees felled when he built the house over 30 years ago, and my neighbor already tried to give me the firewood he made from the tall pines that he had to fell when he built his house (I actually want it, I just need to build a rain-proof shelter first), my other neighbor throws away the dead underbrush from his firs every spring, my entire town is surrounded by miles and miles of pine forest, and I'm trying to think of alternative uses for the 3 long-dead fir trees in our front garden that finally fell on their own during a storm last winter (thereby sparing my scared-of-heights self the climb up a tall, shaky ladder with my chainsaw; they even fell absolutely perfectly, not hitting any bush or fruit tree - you just have to have patience sometimes)... A shame that evergreen wood doesn't work well for hugelbeds.

    I guess if I get no better idea, I could bury them with the usual cut twigs and half-rotted pinecones in the next hole I dig for a bush, for better water retention, and hope that nothing still germinates. We were planning to move a few of the rhododendrons this autumn.
     
  6. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    I believe that some members of this family (Aesculus--the buckeyes) are rendered edible by means of a leaching and cooking process similar to that done for acorns. Do some research. I know that here in CA (USA), native peoples processed the nuts of the native buckeye this way in those rare years when acorn crops were slim.....
     

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