Chestnuts in Michigan

Many of Michigan chestnut growers are not planting the almost lost American chestnuts, but don’t give up. There are people working to breed viable resistant trees with American chestnuts. The trees were beautiful and the wood was widely used, cradle to grave. The nuts were food for people and animals, domesticated and wild—farmed and hunted—and the trees were a canopy for birds and …
Chestnut Harvest ~ 2010
While Supply Lasts … small crop due to May frosts.
U-Pick at Winkel Chestnut Farm is now closed for 2010.
South Haven – 269-637-1846
Traverse City – 231-264-6055
Winkel Chestnut Farms
10788 Garfield,
Coopersville, MI 49404.
Phone: 616-895-1332.
Alternate Phone: 616-560-7743.
Our 2010 Chestnut season has ended. As is typical of many farm crops in Michigan this year, the season was early and short. Due to a short supply of nuts, we are sold out for the season. Hudsonville Michigan (near Holland)
As a member of the Chestnut Growers, Inc. (CGI) cooperative, they have access to the expertise of Dr. Dennis Fulbright from Michigan State University (MSU). “A specialist in plant pathology, he’s very active in CGI,” says Larry, who also serves as a co-op board member.
The Chestnut Growers cooperative has 39 members, the majority of whom are in Michigan. Located on land donated by MSU known as Roger’s Reserve, the co-op owns the only chestnut peeler in North America. “Located outside of Jackson, it has the capacity to peel, roast and freeze 1,000 pounds of chestnuts a day,” says Larry.
The Rogers Reserve, the fully endowed MSU agricultural reseach station on 100 acres of land in south Jackson County, initiated Phase II of its building plan this winter.
Previously consisting of a pole barn for large pieces of equipment, a workshop and chestnut processing facility, Phase II adds a large wet lab, smaller anayltical lab/conference room, office, rest rooms, and a locker room with a shower.
Mr. Rogers idea was to build an experiment station focusing on horticulture and natural resources with an emphasis on nut trees. Currently, chestnuts, heartnuts and pawpaws are planted on the acreage. The facility harbors the Midwest Nut Producers Council chestnut peeler, which is currently leased to Chestnut Growers, Inc. In addition to the new wing, the freezer was upgraded to hold products at -20 degrees F. Dennis Fulbright is the Faculty Coordinator and Mario Mandujano is the Farm Manager. The project is slated for completion by April.,1607,7-125–237712–,00.html
State Agriculture Department Implements Quarantine to Protect Michigan Chestnut Trees
MDA hopes to stop introduction of new exotic pest
May 27 , 2010
LANSING – Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) Director Don Koivisto today announced the establishment of a new plant pest quarantine against the Chestnut Gall Wasp to protect the state’s growing chestnut industry…
Michigan’s growing chestnut industry is at risk. We rank number one in the country for number of chestnut farms; 54 farms encompassing 813 acres.
These wasps damage both the Asiatic and European chestnut
The chestnut gall wasp lays eggs in the buds of chestnut shoots and the galls develop on the shoot tips, leaves, and flowers. The gall severely reduces nut production and hinders shoot growth. Once the adult insects emerge, the dried and blackened galls then become woody and have the ability to live on the older tree limbs for years. More severe gall wasp infestations diminish the tree canopy and causes tree mortality.

kuri gohan — chestnut-studded hot cooked rice
kuri manju — baked sweet buns with chestnut filling
kuri kinton — a sweet made from mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts
kuri yokan — logs of sweetened red bean paste “fudge” studded with whole or broken chestnuts
and various Western-style fancy pastries that use candied chestnuts as filling or garnish.

I recall a recipe from the Time-Life Foods of the World book for Japan that went along something like these lines:

Take some turnips and cut them into small balls. Take some seasoned shrimp puree and coat each turnip ball. Roll shrimp-coated balls in noodles which have been broken into matchstick sized pieces. Deep fry the noodle balls until noodles and shrimp are golden brown. Using chopsticks, carefully cut open the noodle balls and gently take out the turnip, reserve for another use. Insert a glazed chestnut into each noodle nest, and serve. These should appear as a mimic of a chestnut in its wild state.

5 thoughts on “Chestnuts in Michigan

  1. I’ve only been around chestnut trees once ~ they were all around the border of a campground we visited in Tennessee. We had to kick tons of chestnuts off of the lot so we could set up our tent. Not a good place for a campsite!! I wish I knew where some closer trees were now, so I could try them out in a recipe!

  2. Hi Tiffany,
    Wow, talk about a nightmare for the princess and the pea! YIKES!! Sounds almost as bad as sleeping on a nest of porcupines.
    Well, no Michigan chestnuts for us this year, but you can probably find them in Asian groceries: peeled and frozen, cooked in syrup in the refrigerated section, peeled in shelf-stable packages, or soon I hope fresh in the fridge…
    Chinese recipes seem to use them a lot.

  3. What a pity the chestnut harvest failed in your neck of the woods. It must be heartbreaking for the orchardists but in the way of the natural world there is always next year…always hope.

  4. Yes, that late frost was bad for the nascent Michigan chestnut growers.
    We can only hope that next year will be better.
    The place we went to, the fellow has a ‘day job’ but even so, it had to have been a disappointment.
    Am I right, chestnuts were not wiped out in Australia? Are they the Chinese species? The Chinese chestnuts are what most Michigan orchards are growing, though if you look at p2 on this post, I think some are using hybrids like the Virginia American chestnuts. Smaller nuts but amazing wood…???

  5. Some of the michigan chestnuts are original american chestnuts. They were brought to Michigan by early settlers and being outside the traditional range (and the cooler climate) they have managed thus far to evade the blight that destroyed the traditional range. Apparently there are some out west as well, brought by settlers as well.

    Nothing at all like the vast original range, but still nice to know.

    It does also sound like great progress is being made on an American / Chinese Chestnut hybrid that would be mostly American chestnut (which grows larger) but with the blight-resistance of the Chinese Chestnuts.

    Here is hoping that can work to restore them to the eastern forests.

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