December 14th is National Roasted Chestnut Day in America, which normally would stir up mouthwatering thoughts of warm, buttery chestnuts served in a paper cone and eaten outside with singed fingers. Walking the streets of New York City during the holidays, you can’t help but smell them and get hungry. But we’re feeling a tinge of sadness as the chance of munching on locally sourced New York chestnuts is well, only that…a memory.
The chestnut tree was once a major force of forestry in the food shed not only in New York, but most of the eastern U.S. In the 1940s, a blight wiped out the crop and crushed what was a major contributor to the economy and diet of both humans and animals—not to mention the wood industry for the prized lumber of the trees. Most chestnuts we eat now are imported from China and other Asian countries. We do bring in chestnuts from Europe too but the high price usually wards off most consumers.
But don’t give up hope on eating a local chestnut some day. American chestnut trees are not extinct, they just need a little help to beat the blight that still exists. A talented team of scientists at the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) in Syracuse are hard at work figuring out how to do just that. You can read more about their work here and be sure to check out this fascinating article about chestnuts and genetic engineering from the NY Times that features the tree geneticists at SUNY ESF and the work they are doing.
And if you are looking for a tasty roasted chestnut recipe for today, try this delicious Spiced Chestnut one from our friends at Edible Jersey. It will definitely warm you up and have you singing that certain holiday song that is so popular this time of year.