‘Growing’ to love Malabar chestnut

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

PHOTO COURTESY HANS HILLEWAERT

When our real estate agent first showed us our home, I immediately began seeing visions of raising our family there. I pictured all of us playing in the yard, entertaining, and running around in our daily lives. I also began asking questions. How could we make it our own? If we wanted to expand, what could we do? Another, more concrete and immediate question came from our real estate agent: “What kind of tree do you think that is?”

The tree stood at around 12 feet tall, and its leaves and coloration looked similar to an avocado tree. However, its fruit was not the same. Unlike avocados, this fruit seemed to be scored down the middle and its skin more woody than fleshy. Still, a variety of avocado was our best guess.

When we finally purchased the home, we came across some paperwork from the owners. Within it was a fact sheet that was all about the Malabar chestnut tree. We finally had our answer.

According to the fact sheet, these trees grow well in warm climates. The fruit, which we thought looked like an avocado, is actually a woody green pod housing edible seeds, or nuts. You can eat them raw, roast them, or grind them into flour.

The Malabar chestnut tree requires little maintenance, as long as you provide it with full sun or partial shade and soil with good drainage. Water them regularly, but be careful not to overwater. You can plant them indoors or out, and maintain them with occasional pruning.

If you want to grow one of your own, you can plant the nuts or propagate a plant from cuttings. The trees remain relatively small if you pot them and grow them indoors. Their size will largely depend on the size of the container. If you plant them outdoors, they average 10 to 15 feet tall — but can grow up to 75 feet.

You may be more familiar with the Malabar chestnut tree than you realize. Also known as the money tree, braided Malabar chestnut trees have been associated with good fortune. You can purchase the trees braided, or you can braid them yourself using a large pot and several seedlings.

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.