Castanea dentata Borkh. Cupuliferae. American Chestnut.
Southward from Maine as far as Florida and westward as far as Michigan but not in the prairie regions. Chestnuts were mixed with pottage by the Indians of New England and they now appear in season in all our markets and are sold roasted on the streets of our cities. The American variety bears smaller and sweeter nuts than the European.
Castanea pumila Mill. Chinquapin.
Southern United States. Pursh l says the nuts are sweet and delicious; Vasey, that they are not comparable to those of C. dentata but are eaten by children.
Castanea sativa Mill. European Chestnut.
Europe, Japan and North America. The native country of the chestnut is given by Targioni-Tozzetti as the south of Europe from Spain to Caucasus; Pickering says, eastern Asia. Other writers say it was first introduced into Europe from Sardis in Asia Minor; it is called Sardinian balanos by Dioscorides and Dios balanos by Theophrastus. It is evident from the writings of Virgil that chestnuts were abundant in Italy in his time. There are now many varieties cultivated. Chestnuts which bear nuts of a very large size are grown in Madeira. In places, chestnuts form the usual food of the common people, as in the Apennine mountains of Italy, in Savoy and the south of France. They are used not only boiled and roasted but also in puddings, cakes and bread. Chestnuts afford a great part of the food of the peasants in the mountains of Madeira. In Sicily, chestnuts afford the poorer class of people their principal food in some parts of the isle; bread and puddings are made of the flour. In Tuscany, they are ground into flour and chiefly used in the form of porridge or pudding. In the coffee-houses of Lucca, Peseta and Pistoja, pates, muffins, tarts and other articles are made of chestnuts and are considered delicious. In Morea, chestnuts now form the principal food of the people for the whole year. Xenophon states that the children of the Persian nobility were fattened on chestnuts. In the valleys inhabited by the Waldenses, in the Cevennes and in a great part of Spain, the chestnut furnishes nutriment for the common people. Charlemagne commended the propagation of chestnuts to his people. In modern Europe, only the fruits of cultivated varieties are considered suitable for food. This species is enumerated by Thunberg n as among the edible plants of Japan.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.