Ark of Taste
Marron de Lyon Chestnut
The Marron de Lyon Chestnut is the very best chestnut that many have ever tasted! It has a sweetness and complexity beyond any other chestnut, and, in addition, its extremely large size makes it much more rewarding than other chestnut meats. Depending on the fall climate, this nut may develop its sugars over the next several months in cold storage, so that the flavor in March is even sweeter, and is sometimes described as having the essence of pineapple or berries.
This chestnut was originally imported into California from France during the 1880’s by Felix Gillet. In California, this variety was planted only on individual homesteads and never for full production.
While there are numerous heirloom chestnut species and cultivars still growing in the Sierra of Northern California, the arboreal archeologists of the Felix Gillet Institute have discovered only one tree of this variety. This sole tree grows on an old homestead in Camptonville, California. Currently, with the help of the Dave Wilson Nursery, 1000 trees are being propagated.
Chestnuts are very amenable to organic and dry farmed production. They require no pest control, other than deer protection when young. Once established they will grow without additional irrigation, fertilization, pruning, or pest control. This tree has often yielded crops over 300 pounds for more than 100 years. The nuts are a favorite of all types of wildlife; specifically, a producer of the rare Cinta de Sienna pigs wants this variety to feed the animals, as it imparts flavors and textures to the meat that are not available from other sources of food.
Seeing as there is one producing tree in existence, the Marron de Lyon Chestnut is a leading example of a historic species that needs our help. Without propagation and proper exposure, this remarkable chestnut may go extinct.