Harvesting Chestnuts

Inspired by Vegan Mofo 2012, today we went Chestnut picking for the first time ever.  Here in Maryland, we’ve had a warm Autumn so far and there are a lot of chestnuts already on the ground.  The old trees we picked from have probably never been pruned, or sprayed.  After reading conflicting instructions online, we picked up perfect-looking chestnuts off the ground, and gently shook some branches until other chestnuts fell.  I devised a system where we would lay down an old sheet on the ground and the freshly-fallen nuts would be easily seen.  Standing under the venerable old tree, I’d hear a thunk every few minutes, and another chestnut or two would fall.  The ground was littered with old burrs and nuts, but we got good at tracking the falling chestnuts with our eyes so we could pick the freshly-fallen ones right up.  There’s a lot of chestnut information on sites like eHow.  Here are some theories that are interesting:

Chestnuts should be observed all through September and October.  It can take five weeks for all the nuts to fall from the time the first nuts drop.  Observe and pick up nuts each day so they don’t sit on the ground too long.

Chestnuts fall when they are ready and fully ripe.  They do some critical ripening in the two weeks prior to dropping, so do not pick or shake from the tree (oops).

Some supplies to bring with you for harvesting are a sheet or tarp, heavy gloves, a bag or two to hold your harvest, and bug spray.  Now that I have a fine kettle of chestnuts, I must figure out what to do with them.