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Why do we grow and sell Chinese chestnuts here in America?


It's helpful to note that there are four species of chestnuts that have commercial importance: American chestnuts, European chestnuts, Japanese chestnuts, and Chinese chestnuts.

The American chestnut of the eastern U.S., all but eliminated by blight in the early 1900's, bears a nut that is high-quality and very sweet, but too small to be commercially relevant. Its high susceptibility to disease also makes commercial growth of the American chestnut unfeasible.

The nut of European and Japanese species (and their hybrids) is very large, but flavor and quality are the poorest of all chestnut species.  Japanese chestnuts have some degree of blight resistance, but European chestnuts typically possess little to none.

The Chinese chestnut, on the other hand, provides the resistance needed for commercial viability in the Midwest. When compared to European and Japanese species, measures of nut quality (including flavor, storage quality, kernel texture, appearance, and peel-ability) are almost always superior.  A wide range of nut sizes is available as well.

Much of the information above comes from "The Iowa Chestnut Grower’s Primer", written and illustrated by Tom Wahl; published 2002; revised 2017; 2nd Edition.

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