Uses of Castanea Sativa
The European chestnut (Castanea sativa Miller), is a deciduous tree in the family Fagaceae. The species is the only native of the genus Castanea in Europe, but in recent decades has often been introduced for reasons phytopathological, the Japanese chestnut (Castanea crenata). The populations in Europe are therefore mainly related to European chestnut seedlings or grafted on Japanese or European chestnut hybrids of the two species.
Economic Importance And Distribution
The chestnut is one of the most important forest species in southern Europe, as it has had, since ancient times, the interest of man for many uses. Besides the intrinsic interest in the ecological aspect, this species has been widely cultivated, up to a wider range, for the production of timber and fruit. The latter, in the past has been an important food source for the rural areas of mountain forest and hills, as the chestnuts were used mainly for the production of flour.
The economic importance of the chestnut has now undergone a drastic downsizing: the fruit crop is now limited to the varieties of high quality and the production of wood for building was markedly reduced. Very marginal, finally, is the use of chestnuts for the production of flour, which has a minor use in the confectionery industry.
It is believed that most of the chestnut forest cover were a result of renaturation of old abandoned plantations over time, while the cultivation has been reduced more favorable to the stations, where you can get the best characteristics of the product, including timber.
The chestnut tree is a plant-limbed, with expanded, rounded crown height and variable, depending on conditions, from 10 to 30 meters.
Under normal conditions, develops a large columnar trunk, with bark smooth, shiny, brownish-gray. The bark of the branches is white and is covered with transverse lenticels. Over the years, the bark cracks longitudinally.
The leaves are alternate, provided with a short stalk and, behind this, two stipules oblong. The foil is great, even up to 20-22 cm long and wide up to 10 cm, lanceolate, acuminate apex and serrated in the margin, with sharp teeth and regularly located. The young leaves are hairy, but fully developed are hairless, shiny and leathery texture.
The flowers are unisexual, on the same plant. The male flowers are grouped in small clusters, in turn, forming catkins erect, 5-15 cm long, issued at the leaf axil. Each flower is white, features a perigonium divided into 6 lobes and an androecium of 6-15 stamens. The female flowers are single or in groups of 2-3. Each group is surrounded by a sheath of bracts that dome.
The fruit is an achene, commonly called chestnut, with pericarp cuoiosa consistency and brown, glabrous and shiny on the outside, tomentose inside. The shape is more or less spherical, with one side flattened, said belly, and a convex, called back. The apical pole ends in a small prolongation fringed, said the torch, while the proximal pole, called the hilum, is slightly flattened and grayish color. The streaks are back more or less marked, particularly in the variety of the group of brown. These morphological features are important for recognition of the variety.
The achenes are enclosed in number of 1-3, in a spiky shell, commonly called hedgehog, which is derived from much of the dome. At maturity, the hedgehog opens by splitting into four valves. The seed is rich in starch.
The fruit is used since ancient times, as has been said, for the production of flour. This use of marginal importance and today has limited the production of sweets, such as the chestnut and Panmorone. Yet familiar, however, the destination of the fruits of good quality for direct consumption, concentrated in autumn, and the industrial production of jams and marron glacé. Has marginal interest to the possible use of fruits as food for pets.
The bark and wood of the chestnut are rich in tannins and can be used for its extraction, for use in tanneries. This intended use, in Italy, has been a particular interest in the early decades of the twentieth century, a time when the industry was widely used national tannin chestnut, but after 1940 has lost importance for the contraction of this sector for the use as raw material, the scrap wood.
The chestnut is characterized by early formation of heartwood, sapwood has a so slim. The heartwood is brown while the sapwood is light gray. Structurally, it is a wood eteroxilo with ring-porous and tends to fall apart at the rings.
Among its advantages are cited durability and resistance to moisture, so it is suitable for use as structural timber, ease of processing make it suitable to be used for the construction of various components. It is also a semi-hard wood, suitable for secondary works of craftsmanship.
This early formation of heartwood makes it possible to implement shifts coppicing relatively short, of course depending on the type of cargo required range. Density is the order of 1 t/m3 in fresh wood and 0.58 t/m3 for that season.
Wood has worked shades ranging from yellow to reddish, thin veins and a distinct knots.
Because of its technological characteristics, the chestnut has been traditionally used for multiple uses and the construction of beams, poles, fixtures, staves for barrels, baskets and furniture, in addition to the aforementioned extraction of tannin. Currently its main purpose is the furniture industry.
Beekeeping is an ancillary activity that could draw the chestnut. Although predominantly anemogama pollination, the male flowers of the chestnut are collected by bees, so this plant is considered mellifera. Chestnut honey has a variable color from amber to dark brown, bitter aftertaste, resists crystallization for a long time, is particularly rich in fructose and pollen. Its Grown naturally in areas with a greater commitment to the chestnut and mainly in the submontane zone between 500 and 1000 meters above sea level along the Alps, the Apennines and the Tyrrhenian side of the mountainous areas of northern Sicily.
The use of chestnut medicinal purposes is a minor aspect, but this species is considered a medicinal plant in the pharmacopoeia are popular for the content in tannins, the bark has astringent properties, can be used in phytocosmetics for the treatment of the skin. The leaves, as well as astringent, mild antiseptic properties are attributed and a cough suppressant.
Always popular the pharmacopoeia of some regions, the pulp of the chestnuts, cooked and sieved phytocosmetics is used in the preparation of detergents and softening facial masks.
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