Sweet Chestnuts are a fabulous food – carbohydrates that grow on trees (and tastier than acorns!).
Most importantly, in ‘Creating a Forest Garden’ Martin Crawford says they are the only nut that stands a chance against the squirrel.
It’s worth planting lots of them, but choose varieties selected for fruiting, not just for ornament, e.g., from here: http://www.agroforestry.co.uk/plantorders.html “A tree grown from seed may take twenty years or more before it bears fruits, but a grafted cultivar such as ‘Marron de Lyon’ or ‘Paragon’ may start production within five years of being planted. Both cultivars bear fruits with a single large kernel, rather than an average of two to four smaller kernels.”
Sadly, chestnut blight has just been found for the first time in the UK (more here: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/chestnutblight) so we might end up eating just acorns after all.
Here are places chestnuts (with nuts worth collecting) have been reported around London in the last couple of years. They fruit in October.
Please send other sightings that you’re happy to share to info@UrbanHarvest.org.uk
The best place seems to be the corridor of 120+ sweet chestnut trees in Wanstead Park. Closest tube stop is Wanstead on the Central line or Leytonstone High Rd on the Overground.
- On the North side of Hyde Park
- Between the S part of the Serpentine and Rotten Row, nr Hyde Park Corner
- Kenwood and Hampstead Heath
- The Avenue in Greenwich Park
- In Richmond Park (but there are signs asking you to leave them to feed the deer…who will then be culled!)
Note: there don’t seem to be any sweet chestnut trees at all in Finsbury Park. There are a couple in Queen’s Wood but they don’t fruit.