Trees transcend our lives. All the time, we are tied up in the personal and historical world, they are putting on a single ring each year, growing invisibly in parallel with us. Some of those we know well, were young in the 19th century endured the First and Second world wars, without being perturbed. Trees are all unique. After many years, some have great character. Trees live for centuries, not decades.
Some of my memorable moments are connected to trees. For example, today I had a very positive "tree experience". I had read Collins little "Gem" book, telling one how to identify trees. Using this, I found that our house is overhung by not one, but seven sweet chestnut trees, some growing from pollarded older stock and not yet fruiting. There are another seven close by.
Sweet chestnut leaves are pointed. Their very spikey shells protect brown edible chestnuts. They seem unrelated to horse chestnuts, which have trefoil leaves and inedible nuts ("conkers"). Sweet chestnuts are not native to the UK and though robust are not that common.
Above our heads, there is about a tonne of low carbon, low fat, gluten-free, fertiliser-free carbohydrate, which needs no attention or harvesting, waiting to ripen and fall into our garden, or its environs. Italians make flour from sweet chestnuts which can be frozen to make gluten-free cakes, breads or pancakes and a range of other culinary delights at Christmas. The northern Italians make pasta from sweet chestnuts.
This story is rather ironic. First, I had just given up on ever being "green fingered" this week, in the sense of growing food in a shaded garden (except for strawberries which are about to give a second crop). Out of an entire stock of tomatoes grown from seed, I have so far harvested just four tiny cherry tomatoes. The frost will spoil pounds of green ones before they ripen.
Second, the very chestnut boughs which we will hope to "farm", I had thought were common hedgerows trees (rather like weeds). Only this morning, I was planning to lop many of them off. Perhaps today I have learnt a real lesson about valuing the hidden store of Nature?
For more information on making chestnut flour and recipes, see here