Chestnut – Provider – Guardian of Nut & Seeds (Knight of Coins)
Genus: Castanea – Family: Fagaceae
Chestnut signals a time of taking on the responsibility of being a provider to ourselves, our family and our community. Chestnuts belong to the Fagaceae family of trees that includes beech and oak. All three genera are historically some of the world’s most generous providers of food, wood and wisdom.
Sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, is native to Europe and Asia Minor. The word sativa in Latin means, “cultivated by humans.” Sweet chestnut trees have provided food to humans for thousands of years. Among many forest dwelling communities, chestnuts were the primary food source. They serve as a substitute for potatoes and wheat and can be ground into flour. Both Alexander the Great and the Roman army planted sweet chestnut trees across Europe to insure a staple food source for their troops. Sweet chestnuts can be more than 2,000 years old.
Japanese chestnuts, Castanea crenata, called “kuri”were in cultivation before rice, possibly as early 15,000 BCE. Their sweet, edible nuts are a part of the New Year’s menu for they represent both success and hard times.
American chestnuts, Castanea dentate, were staples in the diets of native people for thousands of years, where they blanketed eastern North America. Unfortunately, 3–4 billion American chestnut trees were destroyed by chestnut blight between 1900 and 1950. The blight-resistant Japanese and Chinese chestnut, Castanea mollissima, are now the most commonly planted species in the United States. Sweet chestnuts are beginning to be planted as a commercial crop.
Chestnuts are traditionally dried and roasted in their brown husks after being removed from the spiny cupule in which they were born on the tree. The skin of a raw peeled chestnut can then be removed by blanching. Once cooked chestnuts acquire a sweet flavor and floury texture similar to sweet potato.
Note: Chestnuts should not be confused with horse chestnuts, Aesculus hippocastanum, in the genus Aesculus belonging to the Sapindales family. Horse chestnuts may look similar but they are mildly poisonous to humans and toxic to animals.
Message: Chestnut signals a time when we are being asked to be a trustworthy and reliable provider from start to finish. This is a time of paying attention to details and completing our tasks, no matter how mundane they may appear. True providers offer stability and kindness during difficult times that nourish the body as well as the soul.
Challenge: Boredom or restlessness. Life has become too routine, predictable or possibly too chaotic to focus on everyday necessities, responsibilities or chores.