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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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1
February 20, 2017 - 7:11 am

I'm curious about whether anyone local (Pacific Northwest) has experience with chestnuts.  I have space for a couple of large trees.  My impression is most chestnuts will be large shade trees, eventually.

 

Reading on chestnuts, there are a lot of choices, among them American, European, Chinese, Japanese, and hybrids.  Some are pollinators and some are not.  I can't find info about bloom times, so it's not easy to choose two that will be mutually compatible.  I was thinking Maraval and Marsol, both of which are described as disease resistant or tolerant, and good pollinators, vigorous, Euro / Japanese (Castanea sativa X crenata)  hybrid varieties.  Some catalogs offer seedling trees of the varieties, for low prices.  I don't want seedling trees, because of how long they take to come into fruition.  The described 3 to 5 years to bearing for grafted trees seems optimistic to me.  They are expensive. 

 

One concern is several articles state they should not be in wet soil, and our soil seems kind of saturated for part of the winter, such as right now.

 

Any experiences to share?  Thanks.

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davem
171 Posts
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2
February 20, 2017 - 7:04 pm

Hi Daniel,

I have planted a few chestnuts from nuts that I gathered locally.  They are really easy to grow from seed.  The oldest one is 3 years old/4 feet tall and it isn't producing yet.  I did have one die after a year, I think it got dehydrated in late summer, possibly thanks to a mole tunnel.  Fortunately I had planted several in the same hole so one of the others took over.  I like to plant several seeds in the same hole then thin them after a couple of years.

I am pretty sure that the parent trees where I collected the nuts are all European.  One is for sure, because I sent a leaf sample to the American Chestnut Foundation for identification. I thought it might be an American Chestnut, which would have been a big deal.  That tree (actually a small forest of chestnuts) is located near Lacamas Lake, and was probably planted circa 1880.

The others were from trees in the Hazel Dell area, on land which used to be farms.  I forage a lot of chestnuts from those.  In fact I probably won't finish eating them until my trees are producing 🙂

I am tempted to buy a named variety, but I would kind of like to see and taste the nuts first.  Perhaps someday nuts could be included in the fall fruit show?  Probably not enough space though.

I think chestnuts could be a really important permaculture crop, because they could replace annual grain crops.  They produce about the same per acre as grain, and they can be made into flour.  Nutritionally they are similar to rice.

Bread made from chestnut flour:

Hopefully others will chime in.

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
(Offline)
3
February 23, 2017 - 4:13 pm

Thanks Dave.  I decided to give a try with the grafted French hybrids  Euro x Japanese types.  We will see if they survive and bear in my lifetime.  I also ordered a seedling from a similar type, claimed to bear in 5 - 10 years and the known parent is polken sterile.

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Dubyadee
Puyallup, Washington, USA
80 Posts
(Offline)
4
February 23, 2017 - 9:45 pm

I have a few chestnut trees in Puyallup.  I bought seedlings from Burnt Ridge Nursery:

Whitten - Planted 2008, 1st nuts in 2015, getting to be about 20' tall now.

Bouche de Betizac - Planted 2009, 1st nuts in 2016, about 12' tall

Primato - Planted 2009, 1st nuts in 2016, about 12' tall.

Belle Epine - Planted 2011, hasn't bloomed yet, about 8' tall

Chinese Chestnut - Planted 2016

The soil where mine are planted is heavy clay.  I watered for the first year or two and haven't had to maintain them.

Bees really forage on these trees when they bloom in late June.

I experimented with layering on the Bouche de Betizac, Whitten, and Primato.  It takes 2+ years for a staked-down branch to take root.  I dug up three Primato starts this fall and one Whitted a couple years ago.  Bouche de Betizac has not rooted yet. 

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John S
1020 Posts
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5
March 15, 2017 - 5:08 pm

Yes, I agree with WD-

Burnt ridge is a good way to go.

Euros work well here.

Yes, mostly big shade trees.

John S
PDX OR

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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6
March 16, 2017 - 4:03 pm

WD, so about 7 years for Whitten to bear, same for BdB and Primato.  Interesting about starting new ones via layering.

I planted a seedling of Marrisard, from Burnt Ridge, last week.  I have grafted starts coming from Raintree, Marsol and Maraval, those shipments are delayed.  I think that's the last of big trees for me to plant now.  We'll see if they bear in 7 years or, I hope, sooner.

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Dubyadee
Puyallup, Washington, USA
80 Posts
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7
October 10, 2017 - 5:13 pm

The chestnuts are starting to fall. My Whitten is mostly unpollinized blanks but did get a couple large nuts. Several husks at the top of the tree still that look better off. My Bouche de Betizac looks a lot more promising, husks are bigger than tennis balls while the Whittens are about golfball sized. I'm surprised I didn't have better results thsn this because the tree was always swarming with honeybees. IMG_2924.JPG

Written nuts and Bouche de Betizac husks on tree. 

 

IMG_2923.JPG

Whitten nuts. 

 

IMG_2922.jpg

Whitten husks with unpollinized nuts. 

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davem
171 Posts
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8
October 16, 2017 - 3:25 pm

For those of you who are harvesting chestnuts:

1. How do you remove the shell, and peel them? 

2. What do you do with the peeled nuts?

I have tried several methods, but I am not too thrilled with any of them.

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Viron
225 Posts
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9
October 24, 2017 - 6:16 am

Hey Dave, I’m out east in Virginia ..and a massive ‘Chinese Chestnut’ tree came with my place.  Though they’re the tree that introduced blight to the American varieties, I’ve now had a couple years worth of nuts and can understand why they'd have been planted...  

First, the nuts are so well defended by their needle sharp husks ..I’d be hesitant to have pets or children around them…  - and mine look near identical to the photo Dubyadee posted above of 'Whitten' --  Second, the deer and squirrels will race you for them; deer breaking open the husks with their hooves ..and squirrels doing what they do.  

I’ve learned to ‘stomp-roll’ over the husk with the bottom of my boots, then carefully pick the nuts out, often 3 to a husk.  There do not appear to be any pollinator trees near mine, so maybe that’s why a large percentage, maybe 50% of mine are empty..?  But this was a good year!

Inside ...after giving some away to neighbors, who have all kinds of ‘lore’ about them around here.. I’ll slice a knife across one side, then place around a dozen of them in my microwave for 2 minutes.  Their shells spread apart as they cook to an addictive texture…  They can have a slight paper-like membrane surrounding the kernel, but it usually sticks to the interior of the shell or is very easily removed.

I’m storing them in a sealed container in my refrigerator right now ... and just had a small feast of them with a daughter visiting from Portland, who of course had never eaten Chestnuts Cool

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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10
October 31, 2017 - 9:54 am

Thanks Viron for the info.  Now I'll know what to do if/when mine start bearing.  Here is my Maraval after one season of growth.   The fencing is 6 feet tall.  One of the two leads will be pruned off during winter. 

I'm being very diligent about deer fencing.  This year, deer learned to pull tree leaves and branches through bigger mesh welded steel fencing, and knocked over finer mesh plastic fencing, so I'm doing a double layer of the two.  Since I'm anxious to get them going as well as possible, the extra effort was worth it.

I bought two from Raintree - grafted  Marigoule and Maraval.  Then I bought one from Burnt Ridge - a seedling of Marrisard  The names are similar, I get them confused.  The Marrisord seedling was a mistake, because the parent tree doesn't make good pollen and I wanted mine to all be mutually cross pollinating.  Plus I wanted grafted, I didn't mean to order a seedling, but somehow did.  It's growing nicely so I'm keeping it.  Maraval and Marrisard were 2 foot tall on arrival this early spring, and now are 6 1/2 feet tall.  Marigoule was about 1 foot tall, and only put on about 6 inches of growth, if that much.  

 

Marissard seedling

Since the Marigoule didn't grow much, I moved it last month to a less important spot, and ordered a Precose Migoule from Burnt Ridge.  Those supposedly start producing in 2 or 3 to 5 years.

I did a lot of researching about chestnuts, so know more than i did a year ago, with a lot more to learn.

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Castanea blue
2 Posts
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11
May 3, 2018 - 2:28 pm

We started with 5' wire cages to prevent deer browse in the chestnut orchard as well, but now converted to hanging a stinky bag at each tree - just in deer nose height.  Wire cages are a pain  when it comes time to weed or apply trunk paint.  They seem to be working well on the 100+ chestnut trees in our orchard if replenished every 6 months.  Plenty of deer tracks between the tree rows.  If the stinky bags are hung too low though, raccoons and other critters get into them and tear into them.  Green Screen https://greenscreen1.com/

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Castanea blue
2 Posts
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12
May 3, 2018 - 2:37 pm

Has anyone collected data on how many Growing Degree Days Base 50F or Base 55F it takes for chestnut bud break, bloom and nut fall by cultivar?  Data on the cold hardiness of cultivars would also be of interest. 

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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13
May 10, 2018 - 8:55 pm

Castanea Blue, I dont know the answer.  This was a mild winter.  My Maraval, planted winter 2016-17, and my Precose Migoule, planted winter 2017-18, both have a bunch of flower buds.  I noticed them a few days ago.

 

The tiny  Marigoule is growing rapidly now too.  Im glad I kept it.

 

Deer pressure is very high now.  Without those cages, my trees would be long forgotten salad greens for rampaging ruminants.

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Dubyadee
Puyallup, Washington, USA
80 Posts
(Offline)
14
October 15, 2018 - 9:39 pm

I harvested my chestnuts yesterday. My Whitten had the largest nuts but not very many.  My Bouche de Betizac was the smallest tree but the most nuts, husks were mostly singles with two unpollinated blanks, a few doubles.  Primato, the 2nd largest tree, had higher rate of multiple nuts per husk but fewer husks on the tree.

 

picture shows two large nuts from Whitten and triplet husk from Primato.IMG_2733-2.JPG

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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15
October 17, 2018 - 8:41 am

Dubyadee those are nice!  How is the flavor?

I got the first four chestnuts, ever, on my Maraval tree.  I planted that tree in 4/4/17.  It's nice to get a taste this soon.  I think that tree grew 4 more feet this year.  The pollinator was Precose Migoule, which I planted last winter.  It had male flowers but no females.

These trees are carefully caged against deer.  I'll be glad when they are tall enough that so I can remove the cages.

Maraval chestnuts

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John S
1020 Posts
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16
October 24, 2018 - 9:41 pm

I like chestnuts, but since they are such a large tree, I consider them more optimal for someone with acreage rather than someone with a suburban yard.  We are supposed to have one of the best climates for them in the US.  Good for truffles too.

JohN S
PDX OR

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
(Offline)
17
December 8, 2018 - 7:52 am

John, I agree with you, chestnuts would be more of a big shade tree, like an oak, maple, or liquidamber.  The problem for most people who want a shade tree is the chestnuts themselves might be unwelcome.  And they are too big for a typical fruit orchard. 

 

A possible option for the home orchardist, the chinquapin, would be smaller and have smaller nuts.  I wonder if those would be worth the effort - they have been proposed as a new nut tree for the south, and the trees might be very hard to obtain.  There are good reasons for the ban on chestnuts or chestnut trees being shipped into the Northwest  - we are currently free of blight and want to keep it that way.  On a cursory search, I did not identify a chinquapin source in the Pacific NW.

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Dubyadee
Puyallup, Washington, USA
80 Posts
(Offline)
18
August 1, 2020 - 9:12 pm

My chestnuts are about done blooming.  Bouche de Betizac really had a lot of female blossoms this year.  I took male flowers from adjacent trees and tried to pollinate the ones I could reach. IMG_7322.jpgIMG_7324.jpg

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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19
August 2, 2020 - 7:17 pm

Dubyadee those look nice.

Mine aren't big enough to pollinate each other.  Last year I got a lot of empty husks and a few nuts.  This year I grafted three varieties onto the seedlings tree that is 50 or so feet upwind from the others.  Im hoping those grafts will bloom next year.   I don't recommend seedling trees unless one is feeling really experimental.  This one still has not bloomed, unlike the grafted varieties.

Anyway, that one was a seedling from Marissard.  The graft from Marivale took, healing nice.  One graft from Marigole grew a foot, bloomed, but when I unwrapped it, it fell off.  No union.  The others are Precose Migoule, which I have not unwrapped yet.  I might have the Marigoule and Precose Migoule mixed up - such similar names.

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buzzoff
57 Posts
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20
August 9, 2020 - 9:43 am

Free of blight in the NW?  No!

There is an Old Chestnut Tree near Johnson Creek Road in Portland, OR....  It is not free of blight.

When last I saw it, it was bearing well, but it looked pretty mangy.

I would suggest that many of the trees growing in this area, are varieties that have some resistance.

The Chestnut Blight is a sad old tale, and we are not free of the scourge.

You will find out how resistant your trees are, when they get a little size.  Young trees are a little less vulnerable.

As a tree grows, and the bark cracks, it leaves the underlying tissues vulnerable to infection.

Some varieties are less vulnerable to infection.  Colossal is one of them.

Straight up American Chestnuts, died like flies, when first exposed to the blight.  Sad.

There has been a generations long effort, to breed resistant American type trees.  I've read that such trees have been created, and there is a project underway to propagate and reintroduce them.  I'll check!

Yup!  Here's one: https://www.acf.org/wp-content.....evival.pdf

And another:

https://growlermag.com/the-gre.....ican-soil/

I'm wondering who has trees?   And, the answer is....nobody!

Sorry guys, but...  Not yet!  I've been tracking this for a long time.  And, I figured maybe the time had come.

Lots of folks would be happy to sell you a tree.  But, unfortunately, I see none of the "New" magic trees.

https://www.usda.gov/media/blo.....tnut-trees

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John S
1020 Posts
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21
August 14, 2020 - 7:28 pm

Burnt Ridge has sold a lot of European chestnuts, which tend to do well here, apparently.

John S
PDX OR

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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22
September 30, 2020 - 3:29 pm

This year I tried grafting chestnuts.  One of my trees was a bad choice on my part.  I didn't realize the tree was a seedling until I planted it - be careful reading the nursery sites, so you don't get a seedling thinking it is a graft.  There are challenges with seedlings - you don't usually know who the male parent is, even in some cases possibly what species; the seedling might not bear for a decade, if it does at all.    On top of that, I made a mistake because the parent variety, Marisard, is not a producer of pollen.  The third mistake is I planted it West of the other chestnut trees.  My prevailing wind blows from West to East, so I should have planted a known pollen producer in that spot.  Oh well.

So I decided to try grafting from the other three varieties in my yard, all of which are known to produce pollen.  That way, if this tree never produces it's own chestnuts, I still have potential production from the grafts.  Plus, a triple variety grafted chestnut tree should at least be self pollinating, as well as pollinating the trees downwind.

The potential negative is that there are reports that chestnuts are often not graft compatible with other cultivars.  I read that it's best to graft a scion onto a seedling of that particular variety to get best compatibility.

I grafted scion from my Marivale, Marigoule, and Precose Migoule onto branches of that tree.  I'm really not confident about cutting a big branch or the lead from that tree, and bark grafting, so I used small branches and did whip-and-tongue.  I did four grafts, two of them from one variety.  I did my usual wrap, 1/2 inch wide tape made by cutting strips from a freezer zip-lock bag.  That binds nicely over a wide area.  These grafts are up high - I had to stand on a step ladder to make them.   All of these varieties are hybrids of European X Japanese varieties (Castanea sativa  X C. crenata)

All took, with from six inches to a foot of growth on each.  I was ham-handed and when I removed the tape from one of the grafts, I broke the graft.  I thought it didn't take, but it hung on by a thread and the leaves stayed green for a month afterwards.  I splinted it but I don't know if it will survive the winter.

I know there can be delayed compatibility, but I felt like it was 75% if not 100% for this first year, and they look good.  If they continue to grow they will be the major scaffold branches on that tree, although the center  will still be the original seedling.  I noted there is potential for a couple more scaffold branches so ordered two additional varieties to graft this winter.

I thought it might be good to report here.  There isn't a whole lot about hobby grafters for chestnuts.  These might actually grow and be productive in a year or two.  In fact, three of the grafts had male flowers this Spring, the same calendar year that they were grafted.  Time will tell if these make it through the winter, but they look good so far.

Here are a couple images of the grafts.  I did make long slices of the whips, thinking the extra surface area might make for a stronger graft.

chestnut graft

chestnut graft

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John S
1020 Posts
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23
September 30, 2020 - 4:59 pm

Nice job! I've heard that chestnuts are hard to graft but it looks like you've got it.
John S
PDX OR

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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24
October 1, 2020 - 9:03 am

Thanks John.   I wondered if they would take, because as you state there is a reputation they are hard to graft.  I just did the same as I do for apples.   We'll see if they survive the winter and continue to grow.  So far they seem as healthy and vigorous as any other kind of graft.

Another comment about chestnuts - My three year old  Maravale tree made about 2 dozen nuts this year.  It's a vigorous and tall tree already.  The two year old Precose Migoule made about a dozen - the problem with that one is the husks break open and drop the nuts before the husk falls from the tree, so animals get all of them.  I knocked some off with a long stick.  Don't stand under the tree while doing that!  They are like porcupines!  The Maravale nuts fall from the tree with the husk intact, so I get to eat those.  The little Marigoule had a branch with a female flower this spring, and I bent it to pollinate.  The branch broke off.  That's the third time I've done that.  The point of attachment for those young branches is quite brittle.  This time I have learned Laugh

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rivendell_pnw
3 Posts
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25
November 17, 2020 - 6:56 am

Daniel,

Nice job on the graft.  I will be grafting quite a few next year for a project and intend to use whip and tongue.  Have you tried chip budding, I was curious if that worked.  

A great resource for information on PNW Chestnuts is Washington Chestnut Company: Washington Chestnut Company Cultivars Page.  They have info on all the major cultivars and extensive info on cold hardiness, pollination, soil, irrigation, etc. One caution for backyard growers is that Colossal and Bouche de Betizac (the most common commercial varieties) are both pollen sterile.  

While there may be individuals with chestnut blight in the pnw or it may have been here in the past, I don't think the disease does well here and there are many old true American chestnuts that are blight free.  You can grow pure European varieties (no blight resistance) without issue.  Most varieties will be some hybrid between European and Japanese with moderate blight resistant.  The midwest also grows a lot of Chinese Chestnuts which are very blight resistant.  

I think they are really tasty, although a bit of a chore to prepare.  I like to cut a big slash in them, boil them for just a minute then roast them on my bbq.  They also have a lot of potential as a livestock feed overstory for a silvopasture type animal system.  They have no fat and are more close to a whole grain in composition.  Tree grains, sounds like something our planet could use!

Morgan

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