That Old Chestnut

Horse Chestnut
Horse Chestnut

Do you remember, much earlier in the year, we took a picture of some Horse Chestnut flowers – just before they opened? I had forgotten all about it myself. The Dog mentioned it as we passed the tree the other day, I wondered what had become of the flower whose picture we took.

We had been walking past looking up into the tree, at the nascent blooms, when, taking a quick glance around just to be sure that the coast was still clear, I noticed this particular flower, at waist height, on a shoot protruding from the base of the trunk. I really hadn’t meant to photograph the Horse Chestnut blossoms at all, I meant to come back in a few days and get some good pictures of the tree in full bloom. However, it seemed that a kind Fate had presented me with a golden opportunity, and never one to look a gift horse chestnut in the mouth, I climbed up the verge and took a few pictures. A lucky decision as it turned out. Life intervened, as it is wont to do, and the chance to come back and photograph the tree in its full glory slipped away.

So we stopped and climbed up the verge again today and rooted around in the undergrowth to see if there was any sign of an actual nut.

Well, we found him, but he turned out to be a little camera shy and he refused to come out and talk to us.

Calm Down

White Chestnut Blossom
White Chestnut Blossom

You know when you’re trying to meditate and your head is full of stuff?  No, it’s not that I have a butterfly mind, more that I have a mind which would rather chase butterflies. Here, I have to confess, the last time I tried to meditate was long, long ago. I think I was prodding at Zen Buddhism at the time, trying to see if I could levitate, or cover seven miles in one stride. Don’t ask me why, it could be useful though.

Now, the Horse Chestnut came to this part of the world in the sixteenth century. That’s fifteen-odd-something if you want dates. We’re not sure how it came to come here but it could be that Britain, at that time, was the last stronghold of the Julian calendar and it just couldn’t get the hang of all these newfangled Gregorian days.

Why is it a Chestnut? No one seems to know, but everyone has their own idea of where the Horse bit comes from. First, it could be that it is being compared (unfavourably) to the Sweet Chestnut (no relation) and the horse could be a corruption of coarse, there is even a Welsh word that means ‘bitter’ that sounds a bit like horse, standing as a candidate.

Next up, is that it was used to treat horses and cows who had a bad cough, hmmm, a hoarse horse?

Then, there are the marks on the twigs, left by the leaves from previous years, which look just like little horseshoes – or so they say. Galileo had just caused a stir by looking through a telescope, so I suppose it’s possible that people went round looking at twigs with magnifying glasses, about then.

Edward Bach (1886 – 1936) thought that his White Chestnut Flower essence was useful to quieten a busy mind.

Waiting for the Colour Version

Chestnut Flower - About to Open
Chestnut Flower – About to Open

Remember, you saw Chestnut flowers here first! I know they aren’t open yet but we need to stay ahead of the game. Is it going to be a white chestnut flower or a red chestnut flower? An important question.

Dr Edward Bach (1886 – 1936) devised a system of flower essences that could be used by anyone, without any special medical training, to modify their emotional state. Among the thirty six flowers that he recommends, are both red and white chestnut.

White chestnut to quieten an over busy brain for those who, for instance, can’t sleep for thinking about things.

Red chestnut was for those who take their responsibilities for others to extremes – he always phones at eight o’clock, and it’s nearly five past now, I hope nothing serious has happened – for example.

Mrs Grieve (1858 – 1941) mentions that the nuts are not suitable for human food and this may be the reason for its name i.e. Sweet Chestnut – an edible, similar but unrelated nut and Horse, as in only fit for animals, Chestnut. She says that the bark has some medicinal properties. She also relates that during the First World War, Horse Chestnuts were soaked and boiled then ground into meal. This was mixed with animal feed and fed to a cow, a sheep and a pig. The cow and the sheep ate it and showed a satisfactory weight gain and good health but the pig refused to eat any of the food with the nut meal mixed in.

Still, by doing this every pound of nut meal fed to animals saved an equal amount of barley or oats, which could be used as food for people.

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.