Q: ‘What is the difference between varieties?’
A: Most people are not aware that there are different varieties of chestnuts. It’s probably best to think of them like potatoes. Some varieties are better for mashing, some for roasting, some for potato salad.
With chestnuts, some varieties such as Red Spanish are great for purees and soups. Others such as De Coppi Marone are best roasted because they are really easy to peel and have a smooth texture and sweet flavour. Purton’s Pride is a good all rounder, peels well and is great for serving whole in a sauce or as a vegetable accompaniment.
Most growers in the Australian industry now sell by variety, so once you get to know the varieties you can decide which one suits your needs and tastes. There are many different ones, so you need to do some investigation to work out which ones are best for you.
Q: ‘What is the Difference between Chestnuts and Horse Chestnuts?’
A:Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
The Horse Chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum, which has also been known as Hippocastanum vulgare (Gaertn.), is an entirely different tree from the Sweet Chestnut. In fact it is not even distantly related, being a much more recent importation to English soil. It is a native of northern and central parts of Asia, from which it was introduced into England about the middle of the sixteenth century.
The name Aesculus (from esca, food) was applied originally to a species of oak, which according to Pliny, was highly prized for its acorns. How it came to be associated with the Horse Chestnut is very uncertain; perhaps, as Loudon suggests, it was given ironically, as its nuts bear a great resemblance, externally, to those of the Sweet Chestnut, but are unfit as food.
Hippocastanum (the specific name of the common sort) is a translation of the common name, which was given – Evelyn tells us – ‘from its curing horses brokenwinded and other cattle of coughs.’ Some writers think that the prefix ‘horse’ is a corruption of the Welsh “gwres”, meaning hot, fierce, or pungent, e.g. ‘Horse-chestnut’ = the bitter chestnut, in opposition to the mild, sweet chestnut.
Horse chestnuts are much smaller in size to sweet chestnuts. Juice can be extracted for some herbal medicines from both the bark and fruit of the horse chestnut.
Q: ‘Are there any retail suppliers of chestnut cutters (chestnut knives)?’
A: Cutting knives are available for purchase from http://cheznuts.com.au/product/chestnut-marking-knife/ and scoring snips are available for purchase from http://www.growlerscreekgrove.com.au/buy_online.html
Q: ‘I am looking for a supplier of chestnut seeds.’
A: Seed is available in winter as fresh chestnuts. They must be hard and cold and kept cold for 6 to 8 weeks in a crisper or plastic bag to prevent drying (stratification). Then planted out where ever. The resulting seedlings will grow into fine ornamental trees with nuts, but not true to type and will have to be grafted to wanted varieties, if desired. Like all fagacea, seed must not dry out and will not keep any length of time unless held at critical moisture and temp. Germination from long term storage can be problematic.