Chinquapin Seeds — Wild Mini Chestnuts

Chinquapin Burrs

I have seen chinquapin seeds since my early childhood. These pesky burrs often stuck to our long haired dog and would ruin a good barefoot walk. Little did I know that inside was a tasty snack.

Chinquapin Seeds within their shell and burr

Chinquapins are in the chestnut family. Chinquapin seeds are much smaller than chestnuts though.

The hardest part is not getting to the seeds, it is beating squirrels and worms to them. I have found mid to late fall is the time to forage them. 

Look for tan colored burrs. I have read just when they turn from green to tan colored is when they are ready to eat.

You can use your bare hands like I did to get at the seeds (less painful after the seeds have been rained upon), or you can roll them with the bottom of your shoe against a rock or concrete floor. There are several compartments for seeds in each burr. Do not bother with the tiny ones smaller than your pinky nail as they are not worth your time unless you are very hungry.

Chinquapin Seeds Ready to Eat

Once you get the nuts our of the burrs, now it is time to crack them open. Look for any holes from worms. You can use a nutcracker for this part as long as it can crack nuts this small. Otherwise, you may have to resort to cracking them with a blunt metal object such as a hammer or a couple rocks. If when you open them they look dark brown inside, that means worms got to them first. You want the white seed inside a paper-like skin.

Get yourself a handful and eat them raw. If you prefer, you can also roast them, but even raw they are tasty. You can harvest these along with madrone berries every fall.