Harvesting Chestnut Trees: When And How To Harvest Chestnuts

chestnut harvest
Image by Gwenvidig

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Chestnut trees are attractive trees that prefer chilly winters and warm summers. In the United States, chestnuts are suitable for growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zones 4 through 9. The trees produce generous quantities of flavorful, nutrition-rich nuts inside spiny hulls, commonly known as burs. Want to know how to harvest chestnuts? Keep reading!

Chestnut Harvest Time

When to harvest chestnuts? Chestnuts don’t ripen at the same time and chestnut harvest time can span as much as five weeks, although the nuts generally ripen in a 10- to 30-day span of time in late August and September.

Allow the nuts to fall from the tree naturally. Don’t pick the nuts, which may damage the branches; and don’t shake the tree, which may cause immature nuts to drop. The best way to harvest chestnuts is to gather the nuts after they fall from the tree.

Harvesting Chestnut Trees


After the chestnuts fall from the tree, watch for the spiny burs to split. Don’t harvest chestnuts if the burs are still green and closed because the nuts inside will be unripe. Harvest the nuts every couple of days. Don’t wait too long, as the nuts will ripen and quickly lose quality and flavor. Also, if the nuts lie on the ground for more than two days, many may be absconded by squirrels or other hungry wildlife.

When the burs have split, roll the nuts gently but firmly under your shoes, using just enough pressure to release the chestnuts. Avoid jumping or stomping, which will crush the nuts.

Tips for Picking Chestnuts

When the chestnuts begin to ripen, spread a tarp or old blanket under the tree to make gathering chestnuts (and cleanup) easier. If possible, cover the ground in a large area extending to the outer tips of the branches.

Wear heavy gloves, as the burs are sharp enough to penetrate even the sturdiest gloves. Many people wear two pairs of gloves – one leather and one rubber.

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