Horse chestnuts – conkers

chestnut, Silverfox's Notes
chestnut, Silverfox's Notes

Horse chestnuts, also called conkers, are a very different nut. Are horse chestnuts edible? They are not. In general, toxic horse chestnuts should not be consumed by people, horses or other livestock. But does it make them less beautiful, absolutely not .

The “conker” is the fruit of the horse-chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum).  Not actually a chestnut (conkers are, in fact, slightly toxic), it has been an important commercial tree, with uses as broad as raw materials for explosives to providing deep shade to keep beer-gardens cool enough to make winter ice last longer.

The conker got its name from the game, rather than the other way round – before the horse-chestnut was introduced to Britain, the game was played with acorns or snail-shells (the word conker actually means “hard”, and comes from the same root as the French conque, meaning “conch (shell)”).

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