Before the early 1900s, 25% of the trees in North America's eastern forests were American chestnut trees!
   The American chestnut tree was almost completely destroyed by chestnut blight, a bark fungus introduced by Asian chestnut trees imported in the late 1800s.  One or more of these imported shipments contained the pathogenic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, which chokes chestnut trees to death by wedging itself into their trunks and obstructing conduits for water and nutrients. Asian chestnuts were resistant, but American chestnuts had never been exposed to it, so were extremely susceptible. 
   First discovered in 1904 on Long Island, New York, within 50 years, most of the 4 billion chestnut trees in the U.S. were killed.  Only a few clumps of trees remained in Michigan, Wisconsin, California and the Pacific Northwest. 
   Chestnut trees were an abundant food source and nesting area for passenger pigeons.  Although not a primary cause of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, chestnut blight certainly hastened the birds extinction.  Efforts are still underway to develop American chestnut trees that are resistant to chestnut blight.

The Chinese consume 40% of the world's supply of chestnuts, and their use in China dates back to the earliest times of recorded history. They use them roasted in hot sand, in simmered dishes and in soup.

There are 8 people in the U.S. listed on with the last name 'Cashew'
(Mark Morton, 'Gastronomica', Fall 2010)

The “spreading chestnut tree" from The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a real tree in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the corner of Brattle and Story Streets. It was cut down to widen the streets in 1876.


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