Growing Chinese Chestnuts in Missouri
Chinese chestnut is an emerging new tree crop for Missouri and the Midwest. The Chinese chestnut tree is a spreading, medium-sized tree with glossy dark leaves bearing large crops of nutritious nuts. Nuts are borne inside spiny burs that split open when nuts are ripe. Each bur contains one to three shiny, dark-brown nuts. Nuts are "scored" then microwaved, roasted or boiled to help remove the leathery shell and papery seed coat, revealing a creamy or golden- colored meat. Chestnuts are a healthy, low-fat food ingredient that can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes – from soups to poultry stuffing, pancakes, muffins and pastries (using chestnut flour). Historically, demand for chestnuts in the United States has been highest in ethnic markets (European and Asian, for example) but as Americans search for novel and healthy food products, chestnuts are becoming more widely accepted. The University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry conducts one of the nation's most comprehensive programs for developing the Chinese chestnut into a profitable orchard crop. There are multiple field studies, including a repository with 65 cultivars at the Center's research farm in New Franklin, Mo. Ongoing market evaluation and consumer research is also conducted by the Center.