Identifying the difference between Sweet Chestnut and Horse Chestnut

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timtom1

Forager
Sep 12, 2005
153
1
Lancs
www.barkcanoe.net
Hi all

how do you identifying the difference between Sweet Chestnut and Horse Chestnut?

Are the casings slightly different on the nuts?

Horse Chestnut are toxic aren't they? :eek:
 

led

New Member
Aug 24, 2004
544
5
uk
The sweet chestnut has far more finer, sharper spines on it than the horse chestnut, which tends to coarser, blunter spikes. The nuts are different shapes as well, the sweet chestnut has a pointed end, the conker doesn't.
 

moduser

Full Member
May 9, 2005
1,356
6
56
Farnborough, Hampshire
Hi Timtom,

The trees, once you understand the difference, are easy to tell apart.

The nut cases for example on the sweet chestnut have lots of fine spikes, like a little green hedgehog whilst the horse chestnut has a thick skin with short stumpy spines at intervals round it.

The leaves are also different. Have a look at the following to see.

Horse chestnut http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5mgenf
sweet chestnut http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-5MHE5X
 

Roving Rich

Full Member
Oct 13, 2003
1,460
4
Nr Reading
Hi Timtom - Yeah they are quite easy to tell apart - Horse Chestnut has three large leaves grouped together as one - The biggest leaf of any tree in the UK I think ? and the "horse Chestnut" or Conker comes in a spikey green casing with thick flesh, as said earlier, short dumpy spikes, about a fingers width apart.

Chestnut has a single oval leaf pointed at one end, with a distinctive "saw tooth" edge to it. The Chestnut itself comes in a very spikey - almost furry looking casing. The spines are like needles and very sharp and densely packed. Making them very difficult to pick up or open with bare hands.

I hope that helps

Cheers
Rich
 

rich59

Maker
Aug 28, 2005
2,212
20
61
London
The following is a link to a fairly objective assessment of potential toxicity of horse chestnut.

http://cal.vet.upenn.edu/poison/plants/pphorse.htm

It particularly focuses on the toxicity of young/ growing parts of the plant. There appears no clear description of a problem with the mature seed although there are substances in it that have not been subjected to tests it seems.

It does not report fatalities it seems.
 

bambodoggy

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 10, 2004
3,062
50
45
Surrey
www.stumpandgrind.co.uk
Both types can be eaten by humans....we simply choose to only eat the sweet ones as they taste nice!

No reason whatsoever why you can't eat horse chestnuts (conkers) other than the fact that due to them being incredably bitter there preparation takes longer as they need leaching and roasting etc.

Both types can be made into very passable meal for porridge and the like.

It's a popular myth that only sweet chestnuts can be eaten :D

Bam. :)

(Rich59, that site is talking about cows and other animals eating them raw (it's a Vet site!)... I'm not suggesting we eat them raw but leach them to remove the tannin and other stuff and then cook them before eating them).
 

Leeroy

New Member
May 8, 2005
14
0
39
Macclesfield
to be honest i dont fancy eating conkers

its pretty easy to tell the difference sweet chesnuts are more furry than spikey and mostly their trees are smaller and the fruit are too...

if you can only find a conker tree get 2 pieces of string and play conkers with ur mate.....

you should forget about being hungry then...

watch your knuckles kids...
 

bambodoggy

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 10, 2004
3,062
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45
Surrey
www.stumpandgrind.co.uk
Leeroy said:
to be honest i dont fancy eating conkers

its pretty easy to tell the difference sweet chesnuts are more furry than spikey and mostly their trees are smaller and the fruit are too...

if you can only find a conker tree get 2 pieces of string and play conkers with ur mate.....

you should forget about being hungry then...

watch your knuckles kids...
I have to agree I don't fancy eating them much either....my point was that you can eat them whereas most people think you can't ;)

In some ways it's a shame as they have very high food value and certainly far more than sweet chestnuts... back in far distant times they were often used as a famine food. :)

But for now, you're right....much better to play conkers with (unless it's been totally banned now....where did I leave my safety specs :eek: lol).

Cheers,

Bam. :)
 

andyn

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 15, 2005
2,392
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Hampshire
www.naturescraft.co.uk
Mr Mears did a piece of work with a section of sweet chesnut last night. I had no idea it had such properties. Looked sooooo easy to split and carve and the age rings were so defined.

Looks like lovely wood. But as Ray said that i will remember for future use....don't put it on the fire due to the high tannin content.
 

bambodoggy

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 10, 2004
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andyn said:
Looks like lovely wood. But as Ray said that i will remember for future use....don't put it on the fire due to the high tannin content.
Lol....it spits like a Lama :D I do burn it but only every so often and mostly in my wood burner in the living room so it doesn't matter about the spitting ;)

Bam. :D
 
Sep 5, 2005
9
1
30
london
Hi timtom, yes they are completely different. Once you've found a few trees and examined them, you'll be surprised you had to ask. Have you figured it out now?

One more difference, for the record... Sweet ch. has a group of 2 or 3 nuts squashed into each case; the nuts are flattish and angular. Horse ch. has a single round conker which looks like a bowling ball.

To open a sweet ch, stamp on it and collect the nuts from the ground. Trying to prise it open, even wearing gloves, can result in much pain ;)
 

Tantalus

Settler
May 10, 2004
935
2
56
Galashiels
sorry guys but some of the info in here is downright dangerous and irresponsible :(

Horse chestnuts ARE poisonous

please feel free to check this in any search engine you choose

Horse Chestnut = Aesculus hippocastanum
Toxins include Aesculin and Aescin

These toxins must be removed before any attempt to eat them is made

Tant
 

Bardster

Native
Apr 28, 2005
1,118
12
51
Staplehurst, Kent
Tantalus said:
sorry guys but some of the info in here is downright dangerous and irresponsible :(

Horse chestnuts ARE poisonous

please feel free to check this in any search engine you choose

Horse Chestnut = Aesculus hippocastanum
Toxins include Aesculin and Aescin

These toxins must be removed before any attempt to eat them is made

Tant

hehe like most thinks Tant, its all about the dosage....
A little is good for you it seems
http://www.holistic-online.com/Herbal-Med/_Herbs/h68.htm

Not my opinion you understand... I dont claim any knowledge whatsoever :)
 

Tantalus

Settler
May 10, 2004
935
2
56
Galashiels
sheesh the list of medicinal plants stretches a long way from belladonna and digitalis to opium and ergot

suit yourself mate but dont recommend them to anyone in a public forum open to kids and others liable to "give it a go, I read it on the internet"

Tant
 

bambodoggy

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 10, 2004
3,062
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Surrey
www.stumpandgrind.co.uk
Tantalus said:
sheesh the list of medicinal plants stretches a long way from belladonna and digitalis to opium and ergot

suit yourself mate but dont recommend them to anyone in a public forum open to kids and others liable to "give it a go, I read it on the internet"

Tant
Tant, rather a lot of the info passed on this and other forums could be taken in the wrong way by people (and kids) reading it...all the fire lighting threads, the trapping/hunting threads etc all carry the risk of "give it a go, I read it on the internet".

I did state that the "conkers" had to be leached and roasted, which does kill off the toxins and renders them safe to eat.

I know they were used as famine foods and they are quite safe to eat then. Wood Sorel and other plants are also toxic in large quantities but you'll find people saying they are fine to eat. People talk about how nice the fungus commonly known as "Ink Caps", are to eat but few mention that they become quite highly toxic if eaten with alcohol.

I don't feel a need to freak about Horse Chestnuts and stand firmly by what I have said in my below posts. If you choose not to eat them then that's entirely up to you mate. A friendly clarification on the need to prepare them properly would have surficed rather than a scarey warning that they are poisonous but hey, no skin off my nose if nobody else in the world eats them....personally if I was living off the land then they would definately be part of my diet.

Cheers,

Bam. :)
 

Alison

Member
Jul 30, 2005
11
0
48
With regards to the sweet chestnuts, my partner and i have just picked a good carrier bag full but, now i am a little concerned with how to store them. :) i think i remember reading somewhere that you can freeze them. does anyone know if this is correct? or would it be better to dry them and store in Kilner jars? :confused:
 
Dec 11, 2014
1
0
Reading
Tant, rather a lot of the info passed on this and other forums could be taken in the wrong way by people (and kids) reading it...all the fire lighting threads, the trapping/hunting threads etc all carry the risk of "give it a go, I read it on the internet".

I did state that the "conkers" had to be leached and roasted, which does kill off the toxins and renders them safe to eat.

I know they were used as famine foods and they are quite safe to eat then. Wood Sorel and other plants are also toxic in large quantities but you'll find people saying they are fine to eat. People talk about how nice the fungus commonly known as "Ink Caps", are to eat but few mention that they become quite highly toxic if eaten with alcohol.

I don't feel a need to freak about Horse Chestnuts and stand firmly by what I have said in my below posts. If you choose not to eat them then that's entirely up to you mate. A friendly clarification on the need to prepare them properly would have surficed rather than a scarey warning that they are poisonous but hey, no skin off my nose if nobody else in the world eats them....personally if I was living off the land then they would definately be part of my diet.

Cheers,

Bam. :)
I have tasted horse chestnut before (mistaken them for sweet chestnuts). They are very bitter, I guess it's because of the alkaloids. They are only mildly poisonous, one or two would not hurt a grown person. Also, they are so unpalatable I don't think normal human beings would be tempted to eat a lot of them... No need to get too nervous.