Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Chestnut, the fruit or nut of Castanea vulgaris, a fine tree belonging to the order Quercineae. The tree may reach a large size, and has deeply furrowed bark and large glossy serrate but simple leaves in tufts, which turn yellow in autumn. Its flowers are in long pendulous catkins, those near the apex being staminate. The pistillate flowers are grouped, from two to five together, within a densely spinous cupule which splits into four valves. The dark brown nuts are surmounted by the remains of the perianth, being "inferior" fruits. In a wild state two or three kernels or seeds, separated by a membrane, are contained in each nut; but the Lyons marron, the most valued cultivated race, contains only one. The tree is native from Portugal to the Caspian and in Algeria, and is represented by allied forms in Japan and temperate North America, flourishing in the Alps and Pyrenees at 2,500 to 2,800 feet above sea-level. Though the Tortworth chestnut in Gloucestershire, now over 12 feet in diameter, was a large tree in the reign of Stephen, the species is not indigenous to Britain. Its timber resembles oak, but is softer and more brittle. The roofs of many old buildings, including Westminster Abbey and the Louvre, once thought to be chestnut, are now known to be oak. When felled the tree sends up abundant coppice-shoots, furnishing good cover for game and valued also for hop-poles. The fruit ripens over about the same area as does that of the vine; but the Downton variety, with short spines, the Devonshire, and the Prolific do so in this climate. The large cotyledons of the exalbuminous seeds contain but little oil, and are so farinaceous and so important as a staple food in Sicily and some other parts of Southern Europe as to be fairly reckoned among bread stuffs. The chestnuts eaten in England come mainly from Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Holland.