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In a few years, the llamas on our «Mirgg» farm will be able to lie down in the cool shade of sweet chestnut trees on hot summer days.

(Our chestnuts-our story - written in August 2011)

forgotten - almost gone - rediscovered

In spring 2011 we planted 50 young sweet chestnuts with the support of WWF Unterwalden. Toni's father already had the vision of a chestnut grove. He often told of the bread of the poor" and an old chestnut tree that would stand in a wooded area of the home". After his father's death, Toni remembered his stories and went in search of the 30-year-old gnarled tree. We found him and Toni cleared the spot. It bore beautiful flowers this spring. We hope to harvest the first chestnuts in autumn. This finally broke out the chestnut fever on the «Mirgg» farm. We stuck our noses in specialist books and with the landslide area in the Hintegraben area we quickly found a suitable south-facing spot. Machine use of this country is no longer possible. With the sweet chestnuts, however, we see a way to make something positive out of this situation.

Preserve and revive Central Swiss cultural assets

Since the Middle Ages, the sweet chestnut has also been an important staple food on the north side of the Alps. It was cultivated up to the Little Ice Age (17th-18th centuries), particularly in the mild locations around the central Swiss lakes, and shaped the landscape. After that, the chestnut lost its importance here and was almost completely forgotten in the 20th century. The Pro Chestnut Central Switzerland interest group has been campaigning for the preservation of the last remaining grove relics for years. Now the old chestnut culture is to be revived. During our research, we also came across the project and immediately registered for a grove inspection in Weggis, Lucerne. What we saw and heard fueled our excitement. The deadline for participation in the joint project had expired, but Andreas Rudow from the project-leading engineering office Mogli Solutions was at our side as a consultant. In the tree nursery in Küssnacht, we put together the right varieties together.

Chestnuts: Much more than chestnuts and vermicelles

We don't yet have a fixed idea of how to use the chestnuts. We certainly use a large part of the harvest for roasting, because what could be nicer than being able to warm your stiff fingers on hot chestnuts on a cloudy winter's day and refresh your stomach? And with a clear conscience: Roasted chestnuts are probably the healthiest and most natural fast food in the world. The delicious chestnuts also enrich our everyday cuisine. They are used in numerous dishes and are ideal for preparing vegetarian dishes. Especially for the growing group of allergy sufferers and people with celiac disease as a substitute for wheat flour, for example for the preparation of grepes and biscuit dough. But the possibilities are almost unlimited. We are motivated to learn the craft - from the literature and above all from first hand, for example from an experienced farmer from Ticino. Until the young trees bear fruit, we want to use the yield from the old tree to fine-tune the production of possible products. At present, breeding and selling llamas determine the daily routine on the «Mirgg» farm in Stalden. But perhaps in future the buyers of exotic animals will also take home chestnut flour, chestnut flakes, dried or frozen chestnuts, chestnut puree or chestnut liqueur.

As part of the 50th anniversary of WWF-Switzerland, the WWF-Unterwalden section was looking for an interesting project worthy of support and became aware of our project. The planting of young sweet chestnuts fits the theme of the International Year of the Forest, and the 50 trees symbolize the anniversary.

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