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Where to pick chestnuts in Portland?
October 16, 2008 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Any chestnut trees for picking in/around Portland? I can't bear to pay $5.99 a pound for these chestnuts! But neither can I bear not having some now that it's Fall. Does anybody know of any places where I might pick them? I know some people keep those places secret, but I'm not interested in plundering the entire tree. Just want enough to roast over an open fire. :)
posted by loquat to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
 
Perhaps rare due to blight?
posted by hattifattener at 11:25 AM on October 16, 2008


There used to be a tree on the corner of NE 16th & Hancock that had an overabundance of chestnuts and relatively low limbs.

I like to imagine that no one would care if you snagged some, since they used to litter the streets making it difficult to walk. It's next door to an apartment complex as I recall, so the likelyhood of an angry owner coming out is low.

No clue if the tree is still there, but if you live nearby it's probably worth checking out.
posted by togdon at 11:26 AM on October 16, 2008


One thing you should be careful of in the northwest is that many of the chestnut trees you see are horse chestnuts. These are not edible and are, in fact, poisonous to humans. Here is a handy identification guide.
posted by Gneisskate at 12:07 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


In Seattle, I've noticed lots of chestnut trees (of a blight-resistant European variety) in older residential neighborhoods which were communities of Italian immigrants many decades ago. Lots of them are in the parking strips, and the nuts are just all over the place. It's probably illegal to plant them there now; they appear to be serious sidewalk lifters.

Be prepared to endure the chittering of angry squirrels as you gather your harvest.
posted by jamjam at 12:07 PM on October 16, 2008


If I am not mistaken, hattifatner, the champion American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is in Oregon.

Chesntut blight fungus (Chryphonectria parasitica) , while ubiquitous in the eastern US, is not uniformly present in all ecosystems in the US, and there are several small populations of 'escapes'... trees that have no immunity but have yet to be infected. Internationally, there are several places where this species of chestnut can be found. Typically, they are solitary trees, though there are several populations in the midwest that span many acres and contain many trees.

More commonly, Chinese (C. mollissima) or Japanese (C. crenata) or simple hybrids of these are the normal source and are usually the ones found in American urban settings. They are a lot shorter and bushier, and have larger nuts. Both are essentially immune to blight fungus.

loquat... be sure if you visit togdon's tree that it is a chestnut. Buckeyes and horse chestnuts are often called chestnuts erroneously, and even though a buckeye looks like a chestnut, one taste will convince you otherwise. If yoiu want a quick test, grap a burr in your naked hand and squeeze it. If you bleed, it's a chestnut. Buckeyes and horse chestnuts are smooth by comparison. (Also, chestnut leaves are not compound, and have "teeth"... tiny little needle like points.)

If you want to get your hands on some chestnuts, you can order some from Empire Chestnut Company .
posted by FauxScot at 12:22 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


jamjam...

C. sativa (the European chestnut) is not blight resistant. It is only moderately less susceptible to blight than American chestnut. Still, in an area where no blight exists yet, the look like they are immune.
posted by FauxScot at 12:25 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Urban Edibles is a good resource for wild food sources in Portland
posted by TNOTGILL at 12:43 PM on October 16, 2008


Thank you for that information, Faux-Scot, but some Italian chestnuts do evidently show significant resistance to the blight because of the presence of an endemic virus infection:

Hypovirulence. Biological control of chestnut blight is based on a virus that keeps the fungus from killing the trees. The virus-infected strains of the fungus were first imported in 1972 from Italy, where their "hypovirulent" nature was first recognized. Different from the normal, lethal strains of blight fungus, the hypovirulent strains cause a swollen, superficial canker with healthy bark tissue underneath. Naturally occurring hypovirulence saved the famous Italian chestnut from the fate of its American cousin.
posted by jamjam at 1:15 PM on October 16, 2008


Be careful if you do find one...I rented a house with a chestnut tree in back, and the chestnuts are encased in a spiky green covering that was an irritant as well as being very sharp.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:31 PM on October 16, 2008


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