Roasted sweet chestnuts for sale on the streets of London and other cities of Britain are one of the consolations to be enjoyed in the gathering gloom of our short winter afternoons. Today’s image depicts windfall sweet chestnuts on a public footpath near my house. Free food!
The trees originate in the Mediterranean region and are believed to have been brought to the British Isles by the Romans. As well as a source of nuts, they are a rich provider of nectar and pollen for bees; and their wood is strong yet easily worked and so used for furniture. In Britain copses of the tree are managed to supply wooden poles. The tree fruits after 25 years and can live for up to 700 years, though currently it is susceptible to chestnut blight. The ancient Greeks regarded the nuts as the food of the gods and dedicated them to Zeus.
Whilst there is little spiritual symbolism or significance attached to the trees in the cultures of northern Europe they may nonetheless be celebrated as yet another example of the character of the creation as sheer gift. The sweetness to be unlocked inside a smooth hard shell and prickly case is an intriguing and ultimately attractive feature; perhaps providing also food for the thought that external appearance is not a necessary indicator of inner character.