Michigan Chestnuts - Part I

Chestnut

The first snow shower of the year is a reminder that "Winter is icumen in," as poet Ezra Pound parodied.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are creeping up on us, and it's time to get ready for "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" on the radio for sure, but at the Farmer's Market as well.

Fresh chestnuts are a delicious and traditional, but seldom seen, food these days. And it turns out that Michigan grows a lot of them. From MSU's Rogers Reserve Chestnut Research Facility, "According to the Ag Census of 2007, Michigan has the largest number of chestnut growers and the most acreage of any state."

This year is a banner year for chestnuts - the biggest harvest in the history of the state. MSU Professor and chestnut researcher, Dennis Fulbright, anticipates there will be over 100,000 pounds of chestnuts harvested before the season is done.

When people ask him what he likes about chestnuts he says "there's nothing bad about them. You can do everything with this nut - make into a flour, a puree, dry it, use it in soup or for breading. People in other countries use it in all sorts of ways. It's basically a grain that grows on trees."

At the Rogers Reserve chestnut research facility, they're coming up with ways to not only save the last remnants of the American chestnut forest, but also with all kinds of ways to use every part of the chestnut - from "chestnut chips" to anti-microbial chestnut hull mulch.

If you want to try these sweet roasted treats the old-fashioned way, come to the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market this Saturday. Chestnut Growers Inc., a Michigan-based cooperative of 37 chestnut farms, is coming to the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market on Saturday, November 12 from 7am-3pm for one of their "roasting events."

They'll be roasting chestnuts at the market, and selling bags of hot, fresh chestnuts ready to peel and eat. Just like on the corners of New York City and Paris.

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