Tree crops for staple food


We’ve been experimenting with different uses of chestnuts. We had a big chestnut crop this year and managed to keep most of them from the birds. We had lots and lots for breakfast every morning (and sometimes for dinner)  for a couple of months while they were fresh, we stored them in plastic buckets with a damp cloth over them to keep the fresh ones from drying out but still give them some air so they didn’t rot. Then what we couldn’t eat fresh we dried, and that brings us to now. In midwinter we’ve got out the dried chestnuts and started figuring out the easiest ways to process them. We have approximately 20 kilos of dried ones and could dry more in the future once good processing methods are established. The best solution we’ve come up with so far for the home scale is this: thresh them in a grain sack, hit the bag on wood, flail it around, then move the nuts around with your hands from the outside of the bag and repeat a few times. Doing this removes most of the shells and some of the pellicles (the tannin filled skin under the shell) then a quick hand sort to remove all the shells and then put them in a pot and steam for a few minutes. After steaming the pellicle easily slides off with a quick rub of the hands. The pellicle is very hydrophobic,  not absorbing any water while the nut absorbs the moisture and swells, This both helps to remove them and means that with a short steam the liquid does not absorb tannin and stays sweet.  After removing the pellicle, a long boil softens them up and turns them into a delicious treat. Something about the starches and sugars of the chestnuts make them much sweeter after being dried and boiled compared to fresh roasted. They make an amazing dessert  served with bottled fruit, especially sour plums to contrast the sweetness.

This image shows the edge theory well and shows some layering.  On the right is the top orchard row with apple trees (the closest, most visible tree is a recent addition) interplanted with acacias for nitrogen fixation and goat fodder. To the left is a seedling plum hedgerow, cut back frequently and used primarily for goat fodder  though we do occasionally eat the plums and make preserves with them. They are not of the same quality as some of the cultivars elsewhere on the property. In the foreground is a metal stand used to hold goat fodder.  On the high side of the plum hedgerow is a path (not visible in photo) and above that olive trees and the vibrant green towering loquat trees. The house is uphill from the loquat and olives. This image is taken facing south of the slope, to the west of the house. In the distance you can see the eucalypt (blue gum) shelterbelt.