The Chinese Chestnut is medium-sized with a sturdy, spreading habit. Nutritious chestnuts are encased in a spiny bur that split open to reveal up to three chestnuts when ripe. Baking or boiling the chestnuts reveals the cream colored nutmeats that are favored by cooks for a wide range of dishes.
While Asians and Europeans have driven previous markets, American palates are now catching on to the chestnut, especially as demand increases for low-fat, vegetarian options. Both Chinese and European Chestnuts are adapted for crop use in the Midwest.
Selecting cultivars Chinese Chestnut species hybridize freely and many excellent hybrids have been produced. Of particular note are those developed by the Bond Selection Orchards near Mexico, Missouri. While Chinese Chestnut seedlings are available in many Midwest nurseries, those planning to develop a production orchard with uniform ripening, early and prolific production and excellent disease resistance should consider grafted seedlings produced using the RPM root production method®. The United States' most comprehensive research program for development of the Chinese Chestnut and Black Walnut as Midwest nut crops has been advanced by the Center for Agroforestry. Additionally, Missouri Senator Kit Bond is one of the chief proponents of the chestnut as an important nut crop. Through research and work completed at the Bond Selection Orchards, a number of improved varieties have been produced. The Bond Selection Orchards near Mexico, Missouri, currently produce eight different chestnut varieties. Forrest Keeling grows each of the Bond Orchard Selection Chestnut species in seedling and grafted RPM-produced trees. With proper plant husbandry, in just three to five seasons, these specially produced RPM seedlings start bearing chestnuts--years earlier than traditionally produced trees! All Forrest Keeling Chinese Chestnut species produce good uniformity in phenotype of both seedling trees and chestnuts, exhibit excellent hybrid vigor and hardiness and have demonstrated pest resistance as well as site tolerance for a wide range of soil types. For fall 2009, Forrest Keeling has the following five Bond Selection Orchard species available in #3 container and Step 2 (4 X 4) formats:
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