Chestnut – Provider – Guardian of Nuts (Knight of Pentacles)
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”. Sweet chestnut trees have provided food to humans for thousands of years. Among many forest dwelling communities, chestnuts were their primary food source. Chestnuts served as a substitute for potatoes plus they could 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 live to be more than 2,000 years old.
Japanese chestnuts, Castanea crenata, known as “kuri” were in cultivation before rice, possibly as early 15,000 BCE. Their sweet, edible nuts are an important 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. This serves as a reminder that all providers must take care of themselves if they are to provide for others.
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. When cooked, chestnuts acquire a sweet flavor and 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 also a time of paying attention to our own needs if we are to help others. We may need to pay closer attention to details to complete our tasks, no matter how mundane it may seem. True providers offer stability and kindness during difficult times that nourish the mind, body and soul.
Challenge: Boredom or restlessness. Life has become too routine, predictable or possibly too chaotic to focus on everyday necessities, responsibilities or chores.