There are plenty of chestnut trees (Nepali: katus) in the mix forest of Chitwan hills. Other deciduous tree species include chilaune, jamuna, mauwa, saur etc. Leaves of katus are locally used to make roof while timber has been used to build house and make furniture.
However its fruit holds the significance as it is widely consumed by people. They eat chestnut either raw or roasted but the roasted one is more delicious. Chestnut is one of the important ingredients in the festival of Tihar. Local people sell chestnut in nearby market as there is huge demand of chestnut during this time.
Flowers are arranged in long catins. Two or three flowers together form a four-lobed prickly calybium, which ultimately grows together to make the brown husk, covering the fruits. The fruit is contained in a spiny burr. Around the time the fruits reach maturity, the burrs turn yellow-brown and split open in 2 or 4 sections. Chestnut has two skins - first one is a hard outer shiny brown husk, and underneath of it is another thinner skin, called the pellicle. The fruit inside these shows two cotyledons with a creamy-white flesh throughout, except in some varieties which show only one cotyledon.
People collecting chestnuts
Harvesting of chestnut is during September and October when the burrs achieve opening and release the fruits. People collect chestnuts fallen on the ground. Monkeys and birds also compete with human to get their share. Grey Treepies (long-tailed bird) especially like chestnut.
Chestnuts enclosed in burrs
Tree bears fruits every year but they do not have flesh often. In Chitwan hills and also in other parts of the country, it bears fruits with flesh once in a decade. There is now chestnut with flesh on trees and local people along with monkeys and birds are swarming in the forest to collect the chestnuts. Ganesh Magar, 37, a local resident of Gadi, had experienced this phenomenon two times before. In first occasion (when he was 6 years), there was so much yield that each family collected some 50 kg of chestnut. They found many sloth bears in the jungle feeding the chestnut for many days. Why it bears fruits with flesh in long duration? "It is still a mystery to us" he said.