Every Christmas time, we are subjected to the lyric “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” And more than likely those chestnuts were harvested in Michigan. A good chance, anyway, since Michigan is the Number One supplier of chestnuts in the United States. California, Florida, Oregon, and Pennsylvania also produce chestnuts, but Michigan outranks 'em.

Chestnut Growers, Inc. was created in 2002 and is made up of 34 Michigan chestnut producers. Roger Blackwell, the company president, bought 25 acres of land in Vermontville back in 1990, to specifically use the land for producing chestnuts. The company was later moved to Oceana County, where the land was more suitable for growth, thanks to its highly acidic soil, better drainage, and lake effect from Lake Michigan.

Even so, the type of chestnuts that are eaten the most in America come from Italy – not Michigan...but Michigan chestnuts are catching up. Blackwell says, “I have markets that used to buy Italian chestnuts all the time. Now they want our Michigan grown chestnuts from Chestnut Growers, Inc. because we keep them fresher than Italy’s.”

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Chestnuts can only be harvested every other year – so one year you may find some, the next year you may not be so lucky. Ever tasted one? They may be referred to as 'nuts' but they sure don't taste like one. Once roasted, the taste of chestnuts may remind you of yams or squash. Plus, the caloric content is about half of regular nuts.

A few of Michigan's top chestnut producers can be found in Montrose, Owosso, Suttons Bay, and Tekonsha. Visit some Michigan farmers markets and you may find chestnuts.....or seek out the local village smithy – he should be located under the spreading chestnut tree.

Michigan: #1 in the U.S. for Chestnuts


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