WUOMFM

Michigan ranks no. 1 in the U.S. in the number of chestnut growers

Dec 23, 2016

This is the big time of year for Michigan’s fledgling chestnut industry.

From Nat King Cole to Justin Bieber, singers sing the praises of chestnuts this time of year.

“Thanks to the Christmas Song, and some other reasons, it is pretty much a holiday nut,” laughs Dennis Fulbright, a Michigan State University professor emeritus and an expert on chestnuts.

Since 2000, Fulbright has worked to help growers rebuild Michigan’s chestnut industry.

In the late 1800’s, chestnuts were thriving.

At the turn of the 19th century, a fungal infection, known as the chestnut blight, killed millions of chestnut trees and devastating orchards across the U.S.

However, in recent years, Michigan’s chestnut industry is blossoming. The state is ranked No. 1 in the United States for its number of chestnut growers.

Carl DeKleine grows chestnuts near Hudsonville. He says Michigan will produce around 250,000 pounds of chestnuts this year. 

MSU’s Dennis Fulbright says the sweet tasting nut is growing in popularity, among shoppers and beer makers, who are using chestnuts to flavor their brews.  

Fulbright says roasting chestnuts is fine, but the versatile nut has many culinary uses.

“From appetizers to soups, salads to the main course, to the desserts,” says Fulbright. 

Michigan’s chestnut growers are hoping to grow their industry along with consumer demand.