Your opinion is important to us!

We are constantly making our site better and more user friendly for you. Any dispute, whether praise or criticism is important to us!

We welcome your suggestions!

Send

Feedback
Flat delivery fee £4.95, for all plants (excepted areas see here).
Customer service & advice: call 0845 527 1658 or email support@lubera.co.uk

Sweet chestnuts

Chestnut trees from Lubera

For us, chestnut trees are both a Mediterranean fruit tree, which reminds us of southern hills and mountain landscapes, but also a well-known, quaint fruit. The warmth and fragrance of roasted chestnuts at Christmas time is known to everyone.

   
 
Chinese Chestnut

Castanea mollissima, the sweetest of all chestnuts

From £48.90 *

Sweet Chestnut Belle Epine

Large-fruited, slightly stronger growing varieties

From £48.90 *

Sweet Chestnut Maraval

Fast fruiting variety of chestnut

From £48.90 *

Sweet Chestnuts Maraval and Belle Epine (2 Tree Bundle)

2 trees (different varieties for pollination )

Instead of: £83.40 * £75.90 *

%
   
 

Further valuable information about chestnut treesChestnut trees from Lubera

 

Can chestnut trees also grow in our gardens? Yes, they can and actually easily. After the Romans brought sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) to their northern conquest areas in Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland, they were rather marginalised in climatically favoured places. After all, sweet chestnuts, have survived for over 2000 years without completely losing the aura of being unique, southern and exotic.

With the currently warmer climate and with better-adapted varieties, sweet chestnuts can now definitely conquer the north - at least your garden. Here in the Lubera Garden Shop, you will find a small but fine selection of the best and most suitable varieties.

 

 

Chestnut trees from the Lubera® Plant Shop

 

‘Maraval', a hybrid between the Japanese Castanea crenata and the European sweet chestnut, is a robust tree with excellent pollinators (but also bears many sweet fruits); 'Belle Epine' is the classic chestnut or sweet chestnut variety, with large fruits, easily peelable skin and sweet nuts. Both are also offered as bundles so that you can have two sweet chestnuts in your garden plants, which will fertilise each other. Finally, the Chinese chestnut, Castanea mollissima, with its compact growth, early ripening and at least partially self-fertility, completes the range.

 

Chestnut trees for your garden: 4 advantages

 

We don't want to list all the advantages of chestnuts here, but we would like to mention the most important ones, which are decisive, especially from a gardening point of view:

  • The relatively late budding after the spring frosts
  • The attractive bloom with the dominating flower catkins (which are also fragrant)
  • The growing fruit shells, which burst with ripeness and release their deep brown fruits
  • The golden yellow autumn colour of the leaves

 

Buying chestnut trees - 5 facts you should know

 

If you want to buy and plant a sweet chestnut, it is important to consider the following five topics:

  1. Chestnuts still need a warm location, vineyard sites, slopes, lakeshores, but also climatically protected parts of a garden, e.g. on the slope.
  2. Chestnuts need space, they can, of course, grow up to 10 m high, but by appropriate pruning, they can be kept at 4x4x4m. The Chinese chestnut, Castanea mollissima, grows a bit more compact and can also be planted at 2x2x2 or 3x3x3m.
  3. Remember this: Chestnuts are not self-fertile, so it takes two varieties. There is more about how this can be done in a space-saving way, below. By the way: the soft chestnut, as the Chinese chestnut is also called because of its Latin name Castanea mollissima, is partially self-fertile and can be planted alone.
  4. Older chestnut trees have good winter hardiness down to -20 or -25°C. Young trees should be protected both in the root zone and on the main shoot.
  5. Caution, just to be on the safe side: the horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum, is not a sweet chestnut; botanically it has nothing to do with the chestnut and is poisonous to humans, dogs, cats and even...horses.

 

Sweet chestnuts, chestnuts and horse chestnuts

 

Real chestnut trees have various names. Often, they are called sweet chestnuts as they are here in this article. What at first sight looks like a 'white mould' (chestnuts are eaten anyway), turns out to be a linguistic distinction from the completely different chestnut, the horse chestnut. The sweet chestnut (Castania) is a genus in the beech family (Fagaceae) - together with beech and also oak; the horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), on the other hand, belongs to the Sapindaceae tree family. The external similarities (fruit husk, brown seeds) probably led to a similar name (chestnuts). The Latin additional name (hippocastanum) refers not only to the chestnut but also to the horse, so the German translation with horse chestnut was quite obvious. Conclusion: by means of external similarities, followed by duplication of the name, two plants were brought close together, which have nothing to do with each other. Castanea belongs to the best and sweetest nut fruits; horse chestnuts are only suitable as animal feed, for pigs and fallow deer. For humans, cats, dogs...and horses they are poisonous! The saponins (which, by the way, can be used for soap making and are peculiar to the soap tree plants) and other bitter substances lead to stomach and intestinal problems in small doses; in high doses, they can be really dangerous. Two little unsolved riddles remain: why on earth is a plant called horse chestnut if it is poisonous for horses? And what evolutionary events and strategies have led to rather similar fruits?

 

The 3 main types of chestnut trees

 

Of the genus Castanea, i.e. chestnuts, there are 11 or 12 different species, but only three are important as fruit trees:

 

The European sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, with relatively large trees and large fruits, up to 30 or even 35 grams for selected cultivars. In the growing areas of the Mediterranean mountains and hills, sweet chesnuts are particularly large-fruited, easily peeled cultivars or selections - in contrast to the normal forest tree. Diseases imported from Asia, chestnut bark cancer (Cryphonectria parasitica) and ink disease (Phytophthora cambivora and cinnamomi) have hit European sweet chestnuts hard, but they can still develop a certain resistance to these diseases, which is increased by cultivation measures. And to strengthen this resistance, especially against Phytophthora, the Japanese resistant species Castanea crenata has been crossed with the European chestnut. Our variety ‘Maraval’ in the Lubera Shop is the result of such a crossbreeding. Resistance against this cancer is mainly brought by the Chinese chestnut, Castanea mollissima, which you can also find in our shop.

 

The Japanese chestnut, Castanea crenata, has been cultivated and domesticated in Japan for thousands of years. Its fruits are slightly smaller than those of the European varieties, but often sweeter, with the same growth. Like the other Asian species Castanea mollissima, Castanea crenata is also characterised by resistances, especially against the so-called ink disease, the Phytophthora (ink disease because of the brown-blue sap that escapes when the disease is advanced). As already mentioned our variety ‘Maraval’ is a hybrid between Castanea Sativa and Castanea cernata.

 

The Chinese chestnut, Castanea mollissima (so-called because of the hairy underside of the leaves and the finely hairy buds) also shows resistance, here even to the dangerous bark cancer (Nectria). The trees of Castanea mollissima are clearly smaller than those of Castanea sativa; they are very good and fertile very early; they are easier to peel than the other species and the seeds (nuts) are sweeter. Castanea mollissima trees have been cultivated and domesticated for 2000 years. Historically, they have been propagated mainly by seedlings (and not by grafting).

 

Finally, the fourth species is the American chestnut, Castanea dentata, which dominated the forests in the Appalachian Mountains as a huge tree. However, this chestnut species has almost completely fallen victim to the introduced Asian plant diseases (ink disease and cancer); currently, attempts are being made to revitalise the species by means of hybrids with Castanea mollissima and Castanea crenata. Castanea dentata is - or rather was - the largest of all chestnut trees and also very valuable for the timber industry.

 

The origin of the European sweet chestnut, Castanea Sativa

 

We talk so naturally about the European sweet chestnut, but that is not really true, at least not if we define Europe as Southern and Northern Europe. As with so many fruit species, the genetic centre is thought to be in the Caucasus (comparable to the apple), from where the Castanea sativa migrated with the help of man and animals to Asia Minor, to what is now Anatolia. The Greeks then spread the sweet chestnut trees throughout the entire Mediterranean region, with human efforts to propagate and domesticate always going hand in hand with natural reproduction. In any case, the sweet chestnut mainly settled in the hills and mountains of the Mediterranean area, often on the northern side of the Mediterranean, where it tended to avoid the sun (to avert spring frosts). And, as always, the Romans followed the Greeks: they brought the sweet nut fruit to the north, to northern Italy, to Switzerland, to France, Austria and Germany, and even to England, where the Castanea sativa, the sweet chestnut, was able to establish itself at least as a forest tree in preferred locations, albeit more as an outsider and with less human use and selection than in the south, since the fruit did not always ripen.

 

Chestnut trees (Castanea sativa) Lubera

Picture: The still unripe fruit of the chestnut

 

The bread of the poor - the history of the European sweet chestnut

 

What today is considered a delicacy and makes us think of pleasantly warming chestnuts in clammy fingers - followed by the typical broad, sweet taste of chestnuts - was historically the bread of the poor in the Mediterranean region as well as in some other neighbouring areas such as the Swiss Ticino. Sweet chestnut trees and their nuts are perfectly suited to subsistence farming: they are already in the woods anyway, do not take away valuable, differently usable fields in the mountains and hills; they can be used for years and decades, sometimes for generations (chestnut trees can easily reach 300 years of age). Dried and processed into flour, the chestnut can be stored for more than two years, thus compensating for any weaker harvest years. The high starch content, the sugar content and the wide range of vitamins cover the basic human needs for a reasonably healthy diet - and above all, they quickly fill you up. This rural chestnut culture was largely lost at the latest after the Second World War, with the improved availability of grain and its products and with the infinitely growing transport capacities, but not least due to the rural exodus. The chestnut diseases introduced from Asia, the ink disease and also the chestnut crab have contributed their share to this cultural decline, although the European chestnut is much more resistant and resilient than the American Castanea dentata, which is almost completely extinct.

 

What soil do sweet chestnut trees need?

 

Let us start with the basis of everything: the soil. We have heard the keyword Phytophthora... and we know that sweet chestnut trees grow mainly in hills and mountains on rather poor soils, especially on naturally well-draining soils. This means for us that if we would like to let the sweet chestnut trees grow also in the lowlands, in our gardens, and if they should benefit from more warmth and possibly also from the global warming, we absolutely have to provide a well-draining soil. This is also the most important preventive measure against the Phytophthora fungus, which can spread especially in wet and cool soils.

In heavy wet loamy soils, therefore, fundamental soil improvement is certainly indicated by introducing a layer of gravel and improving the soil with compost, sand and peat. Compost is especially important it should be mixed into the planting soil to at least 20%. Especially in the first years, it is additionally advantageous to apply and chop 5-10 cm of compost twice a year on the planting disc - once in March and once in May. This not only helps the plant nutrition but also forms a natural buffer against the Phytophthora fungus via antagonists. Attention: the application of compost does not mean the application of a mulch layer; one should refrain from mulching young chestnut trees in the garden, the isolation layer leads to wetter and cooler soils - which makes the Phytophthora fungus happy.

Another important soil requirement must be fulfilled for successful chestnut cultivation: chestnut trees love a pH between 4.5 and 6.5 at the most. Calcareous soils with a higher pH quickly lead to the so-called iron chlorosis in chestnut trees, which appears with brighter leaf blades. So if the plant-soil is calcareous, it is essential that sufficient bog soil and peat be introduced, fertilisation should be based consistently on acidic fertilisers (slow-release fertiliser) and acidic liquid fertiliser for watering (Frutilizer Instant Blue).

 

The right location for chestnut trees

 

Chestnut trees need warmth to ripen their fruit in about 12 weeks after blossoming until autumn. Due to the climate changes with 1-2 degrees warming, chestnuts can now be grown safely further and even further north. A good microclimate on a slope, protected by the terrace and, if necessary, with radiation from the house is certainly advantageous. Frost lakes should be ruled out as planting sites; although the chestnut buds out late and flowers even later, the flowering plants formed in the previous year can be damaged at the bud stage. As forest trees, chestnuts tolerate a little shade, so they can be planted in partial shade; here they will also sprout later and are even less affected by spring frosts.

 

When and how to plant chestnuts?

 

The chestnut trees from Lubera can be planted at any time. They are cultivated in large 10 L pots. However, care must be taken that the freshly planted tree can still grow: spring planting is ideal, but also summer planting. The dry and warm soil promotes the growth and the root growth, vice versa the Phytophthora is not present at all in this soil climate...Anyway, chestnut trees should be protected during the winter in the first two years after planting and for an autumn planting this is even more important.

Roughen the root ball as much as possible before planting, so that the roots have an interest in rooting into the surrounding soil. After planting, the root ball should be covered by 5-10 cm of topsoil (possibly mixed with sand, compost, peat).

 

Chestnuts are self-infertile 

 

Chestnuts are basically self-infertile, i.e. the female flowers at the base of the catkins can only be fertilised by foreign pollen. At first sight, this looks a bit like wastefulness because the predominance of pollen on the catkins is obvious...Why doesn't the male pollen immediately fertilise the female flowers? That would be much more efficient!

Chestnut trees Lubera

 

Picture: The male flowers (catkins) and a female flower of the sweet chestnut 'Maraval'

 

Well, evolution has decided otherwise and has given more diversity to chestnuts, making outcrossing and cross-pollination more important and productive than simple fertilisation efficiency (self-pollination by the shortest route). Diversity always means more opportunities, more chances of success, and in addition, it is also easily understood that the forced mobility of genes also increases the geographical distribution (and thus the chance of encountering ideal soil and site conditions). The many and so dominant male flowers on the catkins also fit into this evolutionary 'strategy' of geographical distribution; they produce an infinite amount of pollen that can fly up to 1000 m and beyond.

Today, science assumes that the chestnut is on the way from a monoecious to a dioecious plant, so to speak, and is also developing from an insect-pollinated plant to wind pollination. 

 

Chestnut trees (Castanea sativa) Lubera

Picture: The fruit and the withered male flower of the sweet chestnut

 

Planting and fertilisation of chestnut trees in your garden

 

Evolution thrives on chance and long periods of time. For fertilisation in your garden, the distance between the two chestnut trees for fertilisation should not exceed 50 m.

For our small but fine chestnut assortment, we have selected a perfectly functioning pair of chestnuts, quite deliberately also with different characteristics and genetic origins (‘Belle Epine’ is a Castanea sativa, ‘Maraval’ is a hybrid of the European chestnut with the Japanese chestnut). If you do not have the space to plant one chestnut each in different parts of the garden (with up to 50 m distance), we recommend planting the two varieties together, so that a two- to multi-branched chestnut shrub is created. Here, fertilisation is guaranteed, and in the end, the large shrub needs at most the space of a tree. Of course, European chestnuts can grow to a height of 8 - 10 metres, but when cut they can be kept at 3.5 to 5 metres.

 

Chestnut trees (Castanea sativa) Lubera

Picture: Chestnut trees are extremely tolerant of pruning and can be kept well at 3.5 to 5 m

 

The exceptions to the rule: self-pollinating chestnuts

 

The chestnut variety ‘Ecker 1’ should be largely self-fertile. However, our experience with such self-fertile mutations in other species shows that fertilisation by a second variety increases fertility even more. The self-fertility of the Chinese chestnut Castanea mollissima seems more reliable to us: It is largely self-fertile, but here too two plants improve the yield: since we offer a South Korean seedling origin of the Chinese chestnut, two plants are always genetically different here and can fertilise each other. Moreover, its fruits very quickly and also intensively, the trees can be kept at 3x3x3m.

By the way: all three chestnut species, Castaniea sativa, Castanea crenata and Castanea mollissima, can fertilise each other. However, the Mollissima, the Chinese chestnut, for example, flowers much earlier than the European variety. In order to make an overlap possible, the Mollissima should be planted in a somewhat shadier location.

 

Winter protection

 

We recommend winter protection for the first two to three years. The root zones of the freshly planted trees should be covered with leaves and brushwood (as in the forest) in order to protect the roots from too much cold; in addition, the trunk should also be tied up with insulating material or whitewashed to protect it from too much damaging temperature fluctuations.

 

Pruning. And how does it work?

 

Sweet chestnuts are extremely tolerant of pruning. In the Mediterranean region, it is a common practice in forest cultivation to cut chestnut trees back to the ground, then to obtain several shoots from them, which in turn can be harvested again for use as poles and posts. This extreme example shows well enough how tolerant the chestnut can be.

The necessity of pruning also results from the fruiting behaviour: chestnuts bear fruit on this year's wood and short side shoots of last year's wood. If we think about this further, the fruit zone of sweet chestnuts always remains on the periphery of the crown, which thus becomes continuously larger. This can only be stopped by pruning back regularly or at least every 2-4 years after a few years of growth.

This involves removing branches growing inwards, with the main branches being diverted to younger branches branching outwards, in order to keep the tree compact and young. In extreme cases, it is also possible to cut chestnut branches back to stubs, which can then be used to make new wood. Of course, such extreme pruning measures lead to a yield dip for at least 1-3 years. In return, the chestnut tree does not go beyond the scope of your garden - and you do not have to do without such a valuable house and fruit tree.

Just as a relatively strong cut every 2-4 years is advantageous from about 10 years onwards, chestnut trees can also be allowed to grow by themselves for the first 5-10 years. At best, the side branches that are too low are trimmed.

 

Chestnut trees (Castanea sativa) Lubera

Picture: Chestnut with fruit formation on the side shoots

 

The advantages of chestnut wood

 

Like the wood of the oak belonging to the same family, chestnut wood is very durable and hard. It also has (like the oak) an exceptionally high tannin content (tannic acid content), which ultimately protects the wood and makes it durable. Since time immemorial, people have taken advantage of this by using chestnut wood for poles and supports, robust against the weather, but also against rotting. This topic has become more and more topical again, especially in recent years, as more and more impregnation materials are banned for poles. By the way, it is common practice in southern European forestry to cut chestnut trees down to stubs, then produce 3-7 new thinner trees from the growth, which are then harvested again a few years to 10 years later as raw material for poles and beams.

The tannin of the related oak is also used for food refinement - the modern function of the wine oak barrels is not storage, but the change of the aroma, especially of red wines, by tannins. The chestnut wood, for its part, was and is still used for the industrial extraction of tannins, 60% of which are used in the tannery/leather industry to preserve leather. And of course: there are also chestnut wood barrels, and white wines and red wines matured in them are specially promoted.

 

Harvesting

 

Depending on the year and climate, it takes between 10-15 weeks from flowering to harvest. Interestingly, 50% of the dry weight of the chestnuts is produced in the last two weeks before the plant-induced opening of the fruit shell. At the very end, the kernels turn from white to brown, the shell pops open and the plant drops the shell together with the chestnuts. From the open shells, the chestnuts can be harvested immediately, the closed shells are placed in a box for a few days to two weeks where they can ripen. After that, the shells can be opened (where necessary) and the brown fruits can be harvested.

 

Storage and preservation

 

Fresh chestnuts must always be used as soon as possible after harvesting. And it makes sense: roasted chestnuts never taste better than in the cool autumn, preferably from the embers.

But the virtue of immediate enjoyment is also a necessity: the way they are harvested, sweet chestnuts do not really keep for long. A fresh chestnut can still defend itself relatively well against invading fungi and other enemies, it lives and has resistance; but as soon as the moisture content of the fresh chestnut drops from 50% to 35%, the kernel shrinks and the door is open for fungi and bacteria to attack and consume the fruit. With cold storage between 1°C and 4°C and high humidity, this process can be delayed until the new year - otherwise, there would be no chestnut stands in winter. But even then, the consumer will notice that he or she can expect rotten fruit every now and then...Once again: chestnuts do not keep for very long.

But how could the chestnut become the bread of the common man? In the end, only by drying the kernels, which makes them durable and versatile.

 

There are two stages to consider here:

A) The drying of durable single fruits, which can then be stored in a closed glass container and put in water before cooking: here the drying process is carried out to a water content of 15%, which requires 40-50°C for 3 to 5 days.

B) Drying for flour processing: here, drying is down to 7% water content, after which the flour can be ground.

Flour and dried chestnuts can be kept for two years, but usually for longer. Thus, chestnuts as food were able to secure the basic food supply for the whole year, even if there was a harvest failure with chestnuts or other basic food.

 

Why chestnuts are so healthy

 

Perhaps the best news first: unlike almost all other nuts, sweet chestnuts contain almost no fat, only 1-2%. Nevertheless, they are very filling thanks to their high starch content - after 100 or 200 grams of chestnuts, you will soon have enough. The starch is broken down and digestible in the cooking process. It is not surprising that diets based on and with sweet chestnuts have been developed. What quickly makes you full and has almost no fat could possibly help you lose weight.

In detail, the chestnut has a surprisingly high vitamin C content, plus vitamins B1 and B2. The high potassium content helps to control the blood's sodium level and thus prevents heart disease. Finally, the unsaturated fatty acids, which are also contained in chestnuts, lower cholesterol levels.

Tag cloud

 

Viewed