Herb: American Sweet Chestnut


Latin name: Castanea dentata


Synonyms: Castanea americana


Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)



Medicinal use of American Sweet Chestnut:

A warm water infusion of the leaves has been used to calm the respiratory nerves and promote expectoration. The infusion has also been used in the treatment of whooping cough but modern opinion is that the leaves are no more than a mild astringent.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
30 m
(98 feet)

Flovering:
July

Habitat of the herb:

Dry, gravelly or rocky, mostly acid soils. This species is virtually extinct in America due to chestnut blight.

Edible parts of American Sweet Chestnut:

Seed - raw or cooked. Rather on the small side, but these are the sweetest seeds of any species in this genus. The seed contains about 7% fat, 11% protein. It can be dried, ground into powder and then be added to cereals when making bread, cakes etc. A delicious oil can be extracted from the seed by crushing the nuts, boiling them in water and then skimming off the oil as it comes to the surface. It can be used as a topping for various puddings. The roasted nut can be used as a coffee substitute and a chocolate substitute can also be made from it (no further details).

Other uses of the herb:

The bark is a good source of tannin. The dried leaves contain 9% tannin. The wood and the seed husks also contain tannin. The husks contain 10 - 13% tannin. A brown dye is obtained from the bark. Wood - soft, not strong, light, very durable, liable to warp. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot. Easy to split, it is used for making cheap furniture, fence posts, in construction etc.

Propagation of American Sweet Chestnut:

Seed - where possible sow the seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in a seed bed outdoors. The seed must be protected from mice and squirrels. The seed has a short viability and must not be allowed to become dry. It can be stored in a cool place, such as the salad compartment of a fridge, for a few months if it is kept moist, but check regularly for signs of germination. The seed should germinate in late winter or early spring. If sown in an outdoor seedbed, the plants can be left in situ for 1 - 2 years before planting them out in their permanent positions. If grown in pots, the plants can be put out into their permanent positions in the summer or autumn, making sure to give them some protection from the cold in their first winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry, gravelly or rocky, mostly acid soils. This species is virtually extinct in America due to chestnut blight.

Known hazards of Castanea dentata:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.