Did you know that a flourishing chestnut orchard is taking root in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains? It’s true. Virginia Chestnuts is a family-owned and operated orchard with deep roots in the heart of Nelson County.
A Dream Fulfilled
The story of the chestnut tree is one of survival. American chestnut trees were once grown and enjoyed in the United States but most trees succumbed to a bark disease, known as blight, in the early 1900′s. Consumers began obtaining chestnuts from Asia and Europe. Today, most of the chestnuts consumed in the United States come from Italy and France.
Virginia farmers David and Kim Bryant dreamed of bringing the chestnut back to Virginia and began buying, planting, and growing more than 1,500 trees to determine if the American chestnut could once again be viable on Virginia soil. A risk? Yes, but one with fruitful benefits. Between 2009 and 2014 the orchard experienced a harsh winter and later cicadas that threatened the trees, but in 2015 things began to turn around for the better.
Prior to the harvest, Virginia Chestnuts reached out to brewers, chefs, and local food hubs to gauge interest. The nostalgia for chestnuts appeared to drive the demand. Many pounds of Virginia Chestnuts were soon hand delivered or shipped and then re-introduced to the American palate from Nelson County, to Richmond to Washington, DC.
They’re currently sold out for the 2023 season but keep your eyes peeled for 2024 to get your hands on locally grown chesnuts.