Michigan farmers planning reintroduction of American chestnutgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
FARM SCENE: Michigan farmers planning reintroduction of American chestnut
By Associated Press, 12/25/2001 03:00
SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (AP) The native species of American chestnut almost entirely disappeared by the 1950s the result of what scientists call the greatest species die-off in modern North American history.
But a bloc of Michigan chestnut-growers has organized to start a chestnut comeback and make inroads into the $20 million import market.
The Chestnut Growers Inc. cooperative hopes to develop and expand a cash market for chestnuts from blight-resistant Chinese chestnut trees, the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune reported.
An estimated 3.5 billion American chestnut trees were wiped out by a fungus, Endothia parasitica, which accidentally was carried to this country in a shipment of exotic chestnut trees in 1904.
What began as a mysterious death of chestnut trees in the Bronx Zoo continued to spread throughout the eastern United States. By the 1950s, all chestnut trees in American forests were dead.
Today, chestnuts sold in supermarkets are imported mainly from Italy.
Chestnut grower Roy Adkin, a member of the Chestnut Growers cooperative, went to California seven years ago to check on a Chinese species of chestnut called Colossal that was discovered in the eastern part of the state.
The 85-foot tree had a reputation of producing an abundance of chestnuts. It also appeared to have some resistance to the blight.
With 15,000 Chinese chestnut trees growing in California, growers in Michigan plan to begin reintroducing chestnuts to a much wider population especially to restaurants looking to offer something unique to their customers.
Thomas Kalchik, a Michigan State University agricultural agent with the Cooperative Extension Service, thinks there will be a demand for the chestnuts.
Unlike the Italian chestnuts, which tend to be dry and need to be cooked, the Chinese chestnut varieties are smaller and sweeter. And unlike Italian chestnuts, they can be eaten raw.
''In our market survey, commercial chefs are very interested in a product that is in a bag that they can open and use immediately,'' Kalchik said.
The group recently purchased a sheller from Italy, which will be used to begin larger-scale processing of the state's crop, estimated at around 10,000 pounds.
''Production will increase rapidly,'' said Dennis Fulbright, a Michigan State plant pathologist who is studying the chestnut blight.
A tree begins bearing nuts after about six years, and a 10-year-old tree will produce 50 pounds of nuts, Fulbright said. A few Michigan growers already have 1,000 young trees planted.
-- Anonymous, December 25, 2001
There are some small tree farmers in Western Wa State on the west slope of the Cascade Mtns that started this almost 20 years ago and are now harvesting the nuts. Taz
-- Anonymous, December 25, 2001
This is a wonderful article that I will run off... I too personally know a young man... well, in his 40's... planting and harvesting chestnuts in SW Wisconsin.... I have heard him speak to many a folk on it at organic conferences...
-- Anonymous, December 27, 2001