Sons of a collector

When we first moved to Latvia, I was totally enamoured by the drastic change of seasons, which I had never really experienced, having grown up in sub-tropical Brisvegas.  This means I was also totally besotted with chestnuts and acorns - still one of the best parts of autumn.  For the first few years, when Tiss was a wee tot, I would take him to our local park with a little plastic bucket and collect acorns.  Or more accurately, I would collect acorns, and try to make Tiss take an interest.  He couldn't care less, however, and just wanted to run, run, run past the oak trees, past the maple leaves raining down in golden sheets, past the chestnuts in the hedgehog-shells.  So I collected acorns, and pretended my kid loved them, when it was actually me.  Shiny brown nuts that had little "hats", which clunked comfortably in your pocket and could practically be used for currency.  I would imagine that each of those pointed nuts in my pocket could grow up as big as the huge, hundred-year oaks around me, and I felt rich.  I was lucky enough to be made a godmother a few years ago, to Zīle - which is a girl's name, but also the Latvian word for a bird (a Tomtit), and also the Latvian word for acorn.  Of course, when I was told Zīle's name, I was over the moon, because the bird didn't come into my mind - only the absolute perfection and unlimited potential stored in the tiny package of an acorn.

And then there were the chestnuts. Every morning walking on the footpath under sprawling beech trees I would look for the green spiky cases on the ground - and would subtly walk faster when I saw them so that I could pick them up before any school kids did.  Break open the shell and inside would be a sleek, rounded, heavy chestnut - glossy and perfect - sometimes big, sometimes two small ones grown together.  Mind you, I never saw any other adults doing this - except for once, when a middle-aged lady in a camel coloured trench coat raced up and snatched the fattest chestnut before I could get there - oh yes, I remember!

As the years progressed I slowly got used to this decorative autumnal bounty (the chestnuts in Latvia are not the edible kind, like the ones in the UK), and enjoyed seeing how the nuts were used by kindergartens to make necklaces, animals, counters, money for play shops etc.  My own kids didn't really "dig it" the way I did, however.  Until last year.  This year and last year I have been secretly delighted that Tiss eventually caught the bug.  This morning he put his jumper on for school and a rain of acorns fell out of his pockets and bounced down the stairs, and I just smiled.  Last saturday when we rode to the park, Tiss spotted a chestnut tree in the distance and opted out of the skate ramp early so that he could go and hunt for chestnuts.  These pocketfuls, combined with Mikus' obsession with bottletops and miscellaneous bits of junk, which regularly come out in the wash, are stuff that parent-collectors dream of...

PS. These are pics from last year.  Which can be seen in more detail in this post.  This year's haul yet to be captured :)

3 Responses so far.

  1. Liene says:

    We have been collecting chestnuts as well! My son Lauris will quietly sit on the kitchen floor moving them from one bowl to another, giving me time to get a few things done. How can you tell which species are edible?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi I have been looking around for evidence of edible Chestnuts and the nut itself has a whitish point on the end like a pixie hat ie the nut tapers off into a distinct point at one end and there is more than one of these inside each prickly casing (2-3 nutsfound inside)

  3. Pi says:

    @Liene and Anonymous:
    The fruits and the seeds int the picture are not the common edible chestnuts, that is the fruits and seeds of the Castanea sativa / Castanea crenata tree: they seem more the fruits seeds of Aesculus hippocastanum (a tree of the same class, but different order, family and species) which are usually considered not edible (and are a bit toxic too). The edible chestnuts are easy to identify: the seeds are contained in a fruit completely covered by thin but sharp thorns.

    Nice blog: I found it on the internet since am planning to move to Latvia and I am interested in knowing how things are going there... :)

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