Chestnut season ends abruptly

It's that time of year when many people go nuts for chestnut picking in the Blue Mountains. But in the twin villages of Mt Irvine and Mt Wilson, the chestnut season has come to an abrupt early end.

The chestnut and walnut harvesting season is already short most years, starting in March and ending in mid May.

But the farms of Mt Irvine closed reportedly after being cleaned out by tourists at Easter and Mt Wilson's sole orchard that is open to the public closed up shop as the school holidays ended.

Fern Hill's Marcia Moulton said her 70 chestnut trees of varying ages, seemed to love the heat of the drought, but were not such a fan of the wet summer that followed this year.

The region's orchards generally had suffered about 30 per cent loss in chestnuts, she believed.

"Some of the trees [on my property] had none," she said surprised.

"I'm not going to open next weekend, it's not worth it. This is my last weekend and it should be the middle of my season," she said. She only opened for nine days of picking this year.

Her beautiful 16 acre cold climate property on The Avenue has been in her family's hands since the 1960's when her father purchased it as a cow paddock and planted the Spanish chestnut seedling variety from Victoria.

She's replaced many trees since she took over the farm 30 years ago. Trees take 10 years to bear fruit, then the porcupine-like pods fall annually as the fruit ripens.

Thousands usually arrive to pick the chestnuts, this year she had 500 visitors in her short season, she's been turning them away, warning of not enough stock.

"Anybody who is ringing I'm warning them," Mrs Moulton said. "The rain is all I can put it down to," she said, adding she had not seen a season as bad since she took over the running of the farm.

"Last year was quite good, we couldn't sell them all [during COVID] so I sold the excess at my gallery at Mosman.

"People buy four or five kilos and cook with them all year," she told the Gazette while handing out brochures with recipes in them to the last of the visitors.

"It's social. My parents did it so I carry on the tradition. What am I going to do with the nuts otherwise?" Mrs Moulton said.

Chestnuts grow in Australia in the Mounts of the Blue Mountains, as well as the Victorian Alps and Southern Ranges. Some other Mt Wilson property owners who have chestnut trees but do not open to the public, watch as wombats devour the pickings, eating right through the porcupine pods and taking the chestnuts away into their wombat holes.

Nut-picking locations include Fern Hill in Mt Wilson as well as Kookootonga, Nutwood Farm in Mt Irvine.

Kookootonga Farm on Mt Irvine Road, posted on their website they were expecting their harvest to continue until late April. Their season ended on April 11. The family told the Gazette: "We mostly get five weekends per season, occasionally stretching to six. Easter was early this year and always sees a lot of stock go out. We did have a smaller crop of walnuts this season, probably due to a few factors (wet lead up, gang gang cockatoos, seasonal variation). Our chestnut crop was probably down a small percentage due to a couple of varieties not producing their usual wealth. Overall, we were happy with our season. "

The season returns in March next year.