Wyoming Chestnuts and Pawpaws

  • Chestnuts trees can live over 1,000 years and produce nutritious, tasty nuts year after year. Like pawpaws, chestnuts were a staple crop of the Native Americans.
  • Although the American Chestnut can no longer produce nuts as a result of the blight, Chinese Chestnuts are big, tasty, easier to eat and not harmed by the blight. Not well known in the United States, Chinese Chestnuts are enjoyed daily in Asian and Balkan cuisines. 
  • Pawpaw trees are the only native fruit trees to North America, and a chilled pawpaw was George Washington's favorite dessert. They remind many of a mango mixed with banana and taste like custard. 
  • This low impact polyculture planting is excellent for carbon sequestration, wildlife development, and local economic development through diversified connections from fruit, nut, and timber production. 

Spring 2017 after one year growth. Chestnuts are in 5' tubes and pawpaws are in 2' tubes 

The above photo shows the initial planting of 2016 after one year of growth in 2017. This quarter acre plot served as a test planting and is surrounded by 300 native seedlings consisting of eastern redbud, grey dogwood, and northern bayberry. 

Spring 2017 photo of new planting that season prior to tube placement

The Process

Chestnuts and pawpaws are planted using  a keyline strategy based off the work of Yeomans to limit erosion and distribute rainfall evenly across the field. Rows of trees are 20 feet apart and trees are 10 feet apart within the rows. The trees alternate between chestnuts and pawpaws and the pawpaws will grow in the shade of the chestnuts as based off the work of Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm in Iowa. Future plantings will include gooseberries in between tree rows, with some medicinal ground covers like goldenseal, and edible vines like hardy kiwi. 

Spring 2017 photo 200 bare root seedlings: 100 Chinese chestnut (Qing, Damiano, Peach- Empire Chestnuts) and 100 pawpaw (Red Fern Farm)

Pick your own

Chestnuts and pawpaws will be harvested by farmers but customers are encouraged to come to the farm to enjoy the pick your own experience and benefit from wholesale prices. Pawpaws are ready for harvest in September and chestnuts in October. Chestnut trees will produce 4,000 lbs per acre at maturity which is after 15-20 years. Both chestnut and pawpaw trees will start production after 4 years from planting (one year old seedlings). Pawpaws are highly perishable so there will be pre-picked frozen pawpaws available and potentially pawpaw ice cream, too. With the addition of a dog park and play area for kids, there will be fun for the whole family. 

Photo of Dunphy boys as children doing work around farm. 

Photo of Dunphy boys as children doing work around farm. 

continue to volunteers and partners