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The Center for Agroforestry

UMCA News Release

Public invited to attend the first Missouri Chestnut Roast, Oct. 4

Sept. 12, 2003

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Once a staple in the diets of medieval Europeans and American pioneers alike, the chestnut in recent years has nearly vanished from the dinner table.

Most Americans probably have never tasted a roasted chestnut. That could change with the successful cultivation of chestnuts, as has recently been done in New Franklin. Mo., at the University of Missouri Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center, or HARC.

Mid-Missourians who would like to sample free roasted chestnuts should come to the Missouri Chestnut Roast at HARC on Oct. 4.

"The big draw is free roasted chestnuts," said Julie Rhoads, events coordinator fot the MU Center for Agroforestry. "But there's going to be something for every member of the family to enjoy. We'll have live music and tours, and about a dozen value-added food producers will be providing free samples and products for sale."

The free event, which begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., will be held next to the Thomas Hickman house at HARC. Built in 1819, the Hickman house is one of Missouri's oldest brick homes and is undergoing a complete restoration.

The public can participate in bus tours or walking tours of the research center, which is considered one of the most visually appealing of all the university experiment stations, with fruit and nut orchards, and managed wildlife habitat and a National Arboretum plant testing site, among other features.

"We want to introduce the public to a few of the activities we have going on here," said Michael Gold, associate director of the Center for Agroforestry. "We'll talk about our work with chestnuts, pecan and black walnut, and how we're working to create habitat to benefit quail. We'll talk a little about the river hills in general and what a unique asset the river hills represent to Missouri as they wind their way through our state."

At the children's activity tent, MU forestry staffer Jean Miller will instruct youngsters in the fine art of pumpkin painting. "First, we're going to paint children's faces, and then they'll be able to paint faces on pumpkins," said Miller, adding that paints, brushes, protective clothing and pumpkins will all be supplied. "They grow pumpkins at HARC, so they'll be washed and ready to go. The children can take them home with them."

For adults, four Missouri wineries will offer sample tasting, Rhoads said. About two dozen other vendors and exhibitors will be on hand, with products ranging from trail mixes to barbecue wood chips, buffalo jerky, chestnut ice cream and fresh oyster mushrooms.

"Chestnuts can be cooked 12 different ways," Gold said, noting that porridge - a common food in medieval times - is essentially chestnut meal. Far more appetizing options are now available, he said. Several area chefs, vendors and members of the Slow Food Katy Trail Convivial will offer savory samples of the chestnut's culinary potential. Information on the nutritional benefits of nuts, along with healthy recipes, will also be available.

"They have a subtle flavor: a hint of sweetness, a hint of nuttiness," Gold said. "I think they're good when they're salted, oiled and flavored. And of course, they're good fresh-roasted, and everybody will be able to sample those."

The Chestnut Roast, sponsored by the MU Center for Agroforestry, HARC and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is part of an effort "to find healthy new alternatives for our diets and new options for our growers," Gold said. "We're attempting to develop the production side and also the consumer aspect.

"The chestnut will grow really well in river hills all over the state, and that's where we hope orchards will be popping up."

The Rank Sinatra's, the area's most popular swing-bluegrass band, will provide live music throughout the day. Gold said the roast will go on rain or shine. "We're going to set up for all kinds of weather. Worst-case scenario -- we'll have tents all over the place."

--Forrest Rose
Information Specialist
(573) 882-6843

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