Can You Eat Conkers?

can you eat conkers

The Horse Chestnut, commonly referred to as a Conker by young British school children, who have a tendency to tie them to a shoe lace and smash ’em to bits in Conker competitions, is the seed of the Horse Chestnut tree, a very common deciduous tree, which can be found in abundance all over the United Kingdom.

The seed looks very similar to that of the Sweet Chestnut and this is probably the reason why people think they are edible.

However the Sweet Chestnut and the Conker are very distant relatives, the Chestnut is highly tasty and has become synonymous with the festive season especially when roasted, the Conker however is best left on the shoelace.

The reason for this is that Conkers contain mildly poisonous saponins and a chemical known as aescin which can induce vomiting and even paralysis, the presence of these chemical components also makes the seed taste very bitter.

During the First World War, when food was in short supply the British Government experimented with various ways to make this abundant readily available seed edible.

They discovered that by crushing, leaching with water and boiling, the Conker could be eaten safely, however the final product was basically starch and the nutritional value debatable, although the concoction was fed to cattle and sheep as fodder, pigs on the other hand refused to eat it, clever creatures those pigs.

Sweet Chestnut trees do exist in the UK but unfortunately not in the same number as the Horse Chestnut, so as a potential free food source the Conker is best avoided but does make for a fun game during the Conker season.



Five Interesting Facts and Myths about Conkers


Conkers and Spiders
It is commonly believed that spiders hate Conkers and will do anything possible to avoid them, great news for arachnophobics, try a liberal sprinkling of Conkers around your home and see if they keep the eight legged beasties away.

World Conker Championships
The World Conker Championship takes place on the second Sunday of October in the quaint Northamptonshire village of Ashton, home of the Ashton Conker Club.

Health and Safety
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) never banned children from playing Conkers in school, one well meaning but misguided head teacher introduced the idea of kids wearing safety goggles in order to play, this resulted in other schools banning the game on health and safety grounds.

First Recorded Conker Match
The earliest recorded game of Conkers took place in 1848 on the Isle of Man.

Michael Palin Cheats at Conkers
Never play Conkers with Monty Python star Michael Palin, he was famously disqualified from a Conker competition in 1993, for artificially hardening his Conker by soaking it in vinegar and then baking it.



Wild Foods you can Eat

foraging guide to free wild foodWe have established that eating Conkers is not a good idea but the British countryside and coastline is full of naturally growing food stuffs, if you know where to look and what to look for you can enjoy a feast of good food without going anywhere near a supermarket.

In his best selling book Foraging – The Essential Guide to Free Wild Food John Lewis-Stempel guides you through the process of finding and preparing over one hundred wild foods, that will make a healthy difference to both your diet and your bank balance.


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