Nearly a century ago, the American Chestnut tree (Castanea dentata) was ubiquitous among the hilly slopes of the eastern US. So grand in stature – often towering near 100 feet – and successful in procreation, it was estimated that one if four trees in the Appalachian forests was an American Chestnut. The nut from the tree was a staple food of many Native Americans and early settlers, as up to 6,000 nuts can be yielded from one tree. The chestnuts are velvety-brown in color and sweet in taste. They were baked into breads and roasted in stews and soups as well as pounded into meal.
With the arrival of the lethal chestnut blight, which was first discovered at the Bronx Zoo in the early 1900s, this big hearty tree was almost completely decimated by the 1950’s. Revitalization of this massive beauty began in 1983 with the establishment of the American Chestnut Foundation. The foundation has begun a rigorous breeding project that will take 30-50 years and will hopefully produce blight-resistant trees.Back to the archive >