Giant Chestnuts


yeah, california is hands-down the place to be in the entire continental usa when it comes to growing edibles. Was actually surprised chestnut trees grow there too, i was thinking more of wisconsin when pertaining to chestnuts, lol!


Cast, I absolutely love those photos. I wonder if those varieties could be grown in NYS. What is the gene pool of Bergantz?

I’m guessing your hands aren’t particularly large, but those have to be huge nuts.


The Bergantz tree came from a seed planted by Bob Bergantz, a west coast chestnut enthusiast who promoted chestnuts and named the Colossal, Nevada and Silverleaf varieties. We don’t know exactly what tree the seednut came from but I suspect it was from Nevada which is a tree growing in Nevada City California. Almost all of the chestnut trees in Nevada City came directly or indirectly from the nursery of Felix Gillet, a Frenchman who immigrated to the US in the 1800s. Nevada may be a descendant of the French cultivar Comballe and some Japanese chestnut. Bergantz probably has little or no blight resistance. and may not be very cold hardy. The Gillet chestnut which I posted earlier is probably a sibling of Bergantz and is very cold hardy although it also probably has little blight resistance.


Another sibling of Bergantz and Gillet - Torakuri - it has wonderful flavor, probably the best tasting large chestnut I have ever eaten -


this is entirely correct. A good chestnut should have medium size or better, peel well, and have good taste/texture. I was pleasantly surprised by the chinese crosses sold by Edible Landscaping. Not big, but scoring well in the other two.


Castanea, those are amazing. I simply have to have those trees. Where to? and what is their zone range and preferred soil?


All of these are European x Japanese hybrids with very little blight resistance. Gillet is very cold hardy, down to -30, but the others have not been tested below -5. Torakuri is a very late season nut and probably would not mature nuts well in zones 6 or 7. All of them need acidic, well drained soil. Two nurseries sell Gillet and Bergantz grafted trees - Washington Chestnuts in Washington state, and Rolling River Nursery in California. I pollenized some Gillet and Bergantz nuts this year with Dunstan Revival and am hoping for some good blight resistant seedlings. The Edible Landscaping nuts are all Dunstan hybrids. Most of them are very blight resistant and cold hardy, but fruit size and quality can vary quite a bit from one tree to the next. The best Dunstan nut is found on their Revival tree. They used to sell it as a grafted tree but now they only sell seedlings of the various Dunstan trees.


Any idea how nut size is inherited? I’m at a little more than 46 degrees north, and have very unstable temperatures after mid winter; minus 20 today, plus 5 to plus 8 for several days, immediately followed by minus 25.
Many chestnut trees lose their hardening off under this and just don’t leaf in the spring. I’ve been building up a seed orchard of surviving trees, but nut size is vaiable and interesting. The Ashdale tree makes nuts about 1.8 grams, but the tree is iron clad hardy. 5 seedlings from it, hand pollinated to get the nuts, make seeds between 4 and 8 grams. I am waiting on a Blomidon(AshdaleXBridgewater) seedling to make nuts. Its seed parent makes 8 gram nuts. I suspect chestnut responds well to selection for nut size, but I’m 64 already, grin. Assuming I want to stay with local cold hardy trees, got any suggestions?


So, castanea, what blight resistant cultivars do you like best for the East Coast?


Where are you? 46 degrees is workable for growing chestnuts in some areas but not in others. Chestnuts do respond well to selection for size. Some Australian researchers claim that the genes for nut kernel size mostly come from the mother tree while the genes for nut shell size come from the pollen parent. This can result in a seedling tree having nuts with split shells if the mother tree has genes for larger nuts than the pollen parent.


Reminds me of why the C-section is necessary in H. sapiens.


Pure Chinese trees with good blight resistance- Qing, WC, Jenny, Kyoung, Gideon, Hong Kong, Patterson, Shotgun
Hybrid Chinese trees with complete blight resistance - Dunstan Revival
Hybrid trees with significant blight resistance, but not complete blight resistance-
Luvall’s Monster, Szego, Marigoule
And all of these have good quality nuts. Szego produces the largest nuts in this list and possibly the best tasting also. It’s also an extremely vigorous tree and very cold hardy. It’s not clear exactly how blight resistant it is, but it’s been growing in blighted areas for almost 10 years with no significant blight infections. This is a photo of Szego nuts -


Have you grown or eaten any of the AU chestnuts?


next question for us “east coasters” (sort of- I’m in TN, zone 7a/6b) is where do we get some of those you just mentioned? There are a few old trees in my area that have wonderful tasting chestnuts, so I know its possible here. That being said, all the ones I’ve ever seen grown here would just about cover a quarter- so nothing like what you’ve shown. Some are impossible to get the skin off of and some fairly easy…I always thought that had to do with how dry they were and not the variety, so that’s nice to learn. Anyway, I’d enjoy hearing a good source for a good chestnut for this area. Thanks, @castanea


These are Jenny chestnuts, one of the largest pure Chinese nuts grown in the US, and one of the best tasting.


Every variety I mention peels easily. I don’t have time to give you a complete reply as to sources right now but will do so later. Marigoule is a Japanese x European hybrid that is doing OK in Michigan and it has a more European type nut than most other nuts you can grow in the east. You can get trees from Burnt Ridge Nursery or Washington Chestnut Company, both in Washington state. The University of TN at Chattanooga is trialing many different varieties of chestnut and they like Gideon and Shing.I didn’t list Shing above but it is pretty good. At Chattanooga it has been one of their most productive trees.



Have you tried grafting Chestnuts to Oak? I have a live oak that pops up like weeds all over — it’d be fun to try a graft on one!


I tried chestnut on red oak, q. rubra, and English oak, q. robur. In both cases the grafts started, but we had a late frost so I lost them. It’s only for curiosity here, as chestnuts that are hardy enough do fine on their own roots. I’m on Prince Edward Island, in Canada.


Quite a few people have tried grafting chestnuts on oak. Sometimes they take. More often they don’t. Sometimes the grafts will grow OK. More often they won’t.


Nolin River Nursery in Upton, KY has Qing. Clifford England at England’s Nursery in Kentucky used to sell chestnut trees and may still sell scion wood. I don’t know of any TN nurseries that sell the best chestnut varieties. Empire Chestnuts in Carrollton, Ohio probably has the best selection of chestnuts in the US. They have some varieties that are not listed on their web site. Forrest Keeling Nursery in Missouri has some good chestnut trees including Qing and Gideon. In the next year or tow they may also be selling Schlarbaum, an interesting Japanese x Chinese hybrid.

I have eaten all of the AU nuts. My favorite is Black Beauty, one of their oldest introductions.