That Old Chestnut: A Nutty Tale of Love, Loss, and Reconnection

Just a little over a hundred years ago, eastern forests were studded with what was called "America's perfect tree": 100-foot giants with straight-grained, rot-resistant wood, which filled the woods every fall with delicious, nutritious nuts. This nut—the American chestnut—was a staple in the diet and culture of Indigenous peoples, local wildlife, and colonial Americans. Then, in the early 1900s, disaster struck: a deadly and seemingly unstoppable disease moved in and made the species functionally extinct. But Americans haven’t given up on the chestnut; there’s a movement today to bring back this iconic tree using a variety of ingenious approaches. So what will it take to return the “redwood of the East” to our forests—and its sweet, buttery nut to our plates? Join us this episode as we take a frolic through the chestnut’s forgotten history and the science underpinning its potential return, as well as visit a farm growing hybrid American chestnuts to taste for ourselves why they once drove Americans wild—and might soon do so again.

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