Near the end of my visit, Alan showed me a huge Dunstan chestnut tree (I hadn’t realized that he was growing them). I’m not sure how old it is, but it must have been there for a while, even if they grow fast.
Some had started to fall, so we collected a few, which I shoved in my pocket- I’d already filled the bags with fruit
Those chestnuts reminded me of a tree by the road, where I had collected a few in past years. I happened to be passing by the next day and stopped to see what it had. I think it is a Chinese variety, as opposed to Dunstan, which is mostly American, with a bit of Chinese. The difference in nuts is remarkable. I didn’t find that many large ones (squirrels may have helped), but I did see a lot of tiny failed nuts.
After dumping the bowl of nuts out on the cutting board, I noticed some stuff in left in the bowl. I thought it was strange that I would have some rice left in there. Then I saw it move and I jumped a bit- I’m proud to say, there was no shriek…
I looked more closely and found 3 holes in 2 of the nuts.
When I cut open the nuts, more worms came out to say “Hi!”:
Evidently, it is the Chestnut Weevil. There are two kinds, per this paper (an interesting read), the small (5-11 mm) and large (7-14 mm). From what I can tell, Alan has the small kind, though they are on the large side for small ones (most were in the 7-10mm range, but there were a few 5-6mm).
When looking closely at the next pic, I noticed that one of the Chinese chestnuts from the roadside also had a hole. That sent me back down to my car, where the 4 nuts have resided since Monday. Yup- I found 4 worms in my cup-holder…I’m glad my wife wasn’t the one to find them, as they were still squirming around, just like the ones in the bowl.
The road-side nuts were also the “small” chestnut weevil mostly 5-8 mm. Looks like they didn’t get quite as big as the ones eating the fine Dunstan nuts.
The above pdf cautions that the worms can eat their way out of paper and plastic bags, so I didn’t take any chances. After squishing them, I sealed the remains (and damaged nuts which could have more worms) in a yogurt-container/tomb. Hopefully no cement is needed to keep containment.
I love the following line from the pdf:
“Buyers have zero tolerance for living grubs crawling out of the chestnuts they bought”
It goes on to suggest a hot water bath (120F) to kill the grubs, as consumers “seem to
tolerate dead grubs in a few nuts”.
From the pdf, the worms emerge in ~8 days, unless it is cold, in which case it takes longer. If I knew that before, I’d keep the bowl in the kitchen for 2 weeks, to ensure that all the wormy nuts revealed themselves. I could still get a surprise or two…
Most of what I’ve written here may be old hat to the chestnut growers out there. Hopefully I haven’t told everyone what they already knew, but I had no idea that chestnuts had their own version of PC.
After closely examining each nut, I cut them with a cross and soaked them in a salt water solution.
Interestingly, the Chinese chestnuts from the road-side float, while the larger Dunstans sink to the bottom.
From what I’ve read, after the 1 hour soak I should:
Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven at the lowest rack position for 20 – 30 minutes. I turn them over after 10 minutes and then check at 20 mins. to see if any are done. You can tell the chestnuts are done when the shell peels back and the inside gets golden brown.
I’ll let you know how it turns out!