Harvesting Chestnut Trees

Are you ready to enjoy delicious homegrown nuts? Harvest is the time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Keep a few things in consideration as you reap the the benefits of your labor: the best time to pick nuts from your tree, and how to store the nuts.

NOTE: This is part 11 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow chestnut trees, we recommend starting from the beginning.

When to Harvest

Under good conditions, a chestnut tree will have its first worthwhile yield 4 to 5 years after planting. It could take a few years longer under less than ideal conditions due to disease, insects, drought, etc.

It is best to harvest every other day for 3 to 4 weeks to maintain nut quality. For the best quality and size, chestnuts should be left on the tree to fall naturally soon after burs split open and then harvest promptly. This usually occurs from September through October.

Gloves should be worn unless tongs are used to pick from the ground. Remove the nuts from the burrs as soon as possible after harvesting. Discard any with wormholes or other signs of damage. Do not shake or knock the nuts from the tree until the nutshells have turned brown. They are subject to animal depredation and may dry excessively if left lying on the ground too long after they fall.

Storage

Fresh chestnuts (in shell) can be kept in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place for several months. For long-term storage you will need to dry them first, then refrigerator or freeze. When drying nuts good air circulation is important. They need to dry between 2 to 4 days depending on the temperature. Nuts will be hard when dry and can be rehydrated in boiling water. Store in tightly sealed containers.

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