The American Chestnut Trade as Manna

Sounds like it in this story . . .

The nuts were important to people living in the southern Appalachian mountains and, as in Europe, they were especially important to the poorer residents. When the nuts matured and fell from the trees in September and October, the ground often was covered inches deep with them. People gathered them and either ate them immediately or stored them after setting the nuts in the sun to dry. When dry nuts were stored, steps had to be taken to prevent weevil damage, because their larvae commonly infested the nuts. The nuts might be heated in boiling water, or preserved with salt.14 They were eaten fresh, boiled, roasted, baked, or ground into flour.15 Partially dried nuts were particularly appreciated, because of their increased sweetness. 15
The task of collecting the nuts was often a delight to children, who remembered it fondly in their elder years. A Grayson County, Virginia, woman remembered:

On a windy night, we’d fall asleep dreaming of the ground covered with chestnuts which wind-shaken trees had let go. The next morning, breakfast was gulped down as we hurriedly put on old coats, caps and everyday shoes, grabbed buckets or baskets and headed for the closest big chestnut trees, calling back to remind our father to be sure to write an excuse for tardiness at school. Many of the nuts had already fallen out of open burrs and were hiding under masses of brown frostbitten leaves. Some were still inside of very prickly outside burrs but partly open revealing the velvet inside lining. Sometimes we had to use a foot to squash a burr to give up its fruit.16

To get the nuts, people often had to compete with animals, including domestic animals. “There was another chore that had to be taken care of on the farm,” wrote a Floyd County, Virginia, resident, “the picking up of chestnuts. You gathered the chestnuts, every one that you could get. If you didn’t have turkeys, you could get a pretty good supply. But you had to beat the turkeys to the chestnut tree in the morning if you were to get very many.” Another Blue Ridge resident recalled his impoverished childhood: “There was a time of year when we had food. That was in late fall after the gusty winds of a chestnut storm left the ground strewed with nuts. Pa and Ma would take us out by lantern light to beat the hogs to them.”17 17

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