Chestnuts - know the difference

by - 09:18

Autumn is a great time to go foraging as there are plenty of edible things to collect in and around suburbia. Of course, if you're not careful, there are also a lot of things that can make you quite unwell which I have found to my cost which leads me to the chestnut.

England has several types of chestnut and the one I was searching for is the sweet chestnut - the edible ones. These aren't as common as the inedible ones, the horse chestnut. On the ground, when out of their protective cases, they look exactly the same therefore it is near on impossible to differentiate one from the other so it is highly recommended that you do not pick up any that lie on the forest floor.

As I lie here trying to recover from a bout of horse chestnut poisoning, I shall re-educate forgotten minds. I am lucky that I did not have too many as I have read instances where some people have been hospitalised.

The sweet chestnut, below, bears it's fruit in a prickly case and once cooked, they bear a sweet flavour which is quite similar to the sweet potato. If you were to forage for these, I would recommend that you pick the fruit whilst inside the protective case to avoid any potential mix-up. Gloves would be ideal.

The horse chestnut does not bear it's fruit in a prickly case however, as you can see, the fruit is very similar. Once ingested, the results are a lot different. For starters, the fruit is very bitter to taste even though it has the same consistency as the sweet chestnut variety. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, plus others. Another key difference, which I learnt later, is that horse chestnuts are very difficult to peel.
horse chestnut

Be careful what you pick out there.

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