American Chestnuts Return
Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 16, 2009
People are frequently asking me which nut is my favorite. That’s a really tough question to answer. Because each of the nuts has its own unique qualities, all have a special place in my heart.
Today, I’d like to share some history about the American chestnut. It’s a story of hope and perseverance. At one time the region along the U.S. Eastern Appalachians was a lush, dense forest of stunning American chestnut trees that grew as tall as 100 feet. Each year in the early autumn ripe chestnuts would drop onto the forest floor and provide food for the forest animals and sustenance for those living in and around the forests.
The trees grew branchless for about 50 feet and also provided strong hardwood to the lumber industry. Chestnut wood was used for household furniture, paneling, fencing, and musical instruments.
Hardy though the mighty chestnut tree was, it fell prey to a deadly fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, from trees imported from Japan during the 1800s, though it took several years and much research to discover the origin of the disease.
In 1904 the first infected chestnut trees, about 1,400 of them, were found in New York City along the avenues of the Bronx Zoological Park. At first, the park’s forester, W. H. Merkel, noticed only a few yellowed leaves. A year later he found chestnut trees sickened with dead branches barren of leaves that signaled serious problems. By 1950, the blight destroyed almost all the American chestnut trees and was considered one of the greatest ecological disasters the country had ever experienced.
But thanks to some very dedicated people, we may someday be able to reintroduce Americans to their delicious native chestnut. Today, the American Chestnut Foundation is working with plant pathologists and researchers to restore the chestnut trees to their once magnificent and prolific forests. For more detailed information see http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch.html