by Michelle Ajamian
In early October, I joined about 60 friends and acquaintances at the Route 9 Chestnut Coop, located near Carrollton, Ohio, here in the Appalachian region. The gathering was a combination campout, cookout and chestnut harvest. At the end of the weekend, more than 30,000 pounds of nuts had been leisurely gathered, and campfire cooks had made chestnut pies, roasted chestnuts, pressed corn and chestnut tortillas for everyone to try. Since then, members of the Route 9 Chestnut Cooperative have brought an additional 70,000 of chestnuts this year. When I talked with coop member, Amy Miller, she explained that of that total of over 100,000 pounds, 80% are Grade A, all of which are sold by the end of October.
“We could easily double our production and still not touch the market demand,” said Miller. The problem is, how can we get a good price for the growing supply of Grade B nuts that we would have each season.
In addition to Grade A nuts, Grade B nuts account for about 20% of the total harvest each year.
Route 9 and ASFC are looking at ways to partner up to determine how those nuts can be milled into a culinary flour.
Back in 2019, Amy had worked with Shagbark Seed & Mill in Athens for a day or two to get an idea of how their stone mill performed.
“We produced a good amount of flour from very fine to course, but the chestnuts clogged the mill and it was slow going,” said Brandon Jaeger, Operations Manager and co owner at Shagbark. The conclusion was that the nuts cannot be milled whole and once in pieces, they could be brought to a uniform moisture level that would make the milling far more efficient.
ASFC has been looking for ways to fund this research so we can start R&D next spring and summer.
“We hope to work more intensively on developing the right system for drying, chopping and milling the nuts in the future,” Jaeger said.