November 2007 - Miss Ella's Chinquapins growing in Blairsville, Georgia
Chinquapins trees were once found in the wild throughout the North Georgia Mountains. These "Georgiana" chinquapin trees can still be spotted in remote areas of Union County . Surprisingly, a chinquapin tree can also be found in Ella Jenkins Battle's front yard right on the side of Young Harris Highway (more about that later).
The chinquapin nuts are smaller than a dime and resemble chestnuts. The chinquapin nut, encased in a spiny burr, is sweet and delicious. Like a chestnut, chinquapins can be eaten raw, boiled, or roasted.
These nuts were once a winter staple of the Cherokee Indians and early pioneers. The wood was used for fuel, charcoal, fence posts, railroad ties, and as a coffee substitute. The root was used in herbal medicine as an astringent, a tonic, and to treat fevers.
The chinquapin plant is a small tree that blooms in June. The blooms mature into a green burr with brown nuts that ripen in September. Each bur contains one nut that must be harvested promptly before wildlife eats up the entire crop.
Chinquapins are very susceptible to root rot and must be grown in well drained soil. They do well in dry, sandy soil were other trees would suffer. Like chestnuts, chinquapin root systems require a fungus that is naturally found in the top layer of soil. This fungus does not survive in wet soil. Chinquapins grow rapidly and make beautiful additions to the home landscape.
How did a chinquapin tree wind up in Ella Battle's Union County yard? I recently met with Mrs. Battle to take pictures of her chinquapin tree. She provided some delightful insights into life in Union County during years gone by.