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The Chestnuts we enjoy around the fire at Christmas time is from the lovely Sweet Chestnut tree. There is another Chestnut tree, well known for its conkers, known as the Horse Chestnut. The wood and fruit of these trees differ greatly, namely the wood of the Sweet Chestnut is strong, with lovely grain and similar to Oak whereas the wood from the Horse Chestnut is not strong and can split very easily. The fruit from each of these is very different as well. The Sweet Chestnut is famous for its shiny brown fruits, or ‘chestnuts’, that are wrapped in a spiky, green casing and make a tasty winter treat where as the fruit from Horse Chestnuts are conkers which are not to be eaten. We only use Sweet Chestnut wood when we use Chestnut.
Sweet chestnut is thought to have been introduced by the Romans from southern Europe and has been grown in the UK for some 2,000 years. The wood of Sweet Chestnut was known as the ‘poor man’s Oak’ , but Chestnut (Sweet not Horse) makes an interesting alternative to Oak in lots of circumstances and its certainly not ‘poor’ in any way, shape or form. The wood is a light to medium brown, darkening to a reddish brown with age. Narrow sapwood is well-defined and is pale white to light brown.