The tree can grow to be up to 30m (100ft) tall. The leaves are single and spear shaped with sharp serrated edges. From October to November the tree produces sweet chestnuts which grow in sharp, prickly green cases.
The chestnuts fall from the tree in late October, they may fall before this but they aren't always ripe. When opening the cases always remember to have a thick pair of gloves and solid boots at hand (and foot).
The classic use of chestnuts, though the nuts in this country aren't as chuncky as those imported from other countries they're still edible! (Not to mention free). It cooking on an open fire (which can be great fun), slit the chestnut's skin and place on the fire. Don't slit the skin of one chestnut and place that on also. When the un-slited chestnut explodes that means the others are ready.
Warning: The shrapnel from the un-slited chestnut can be quite ferocious, so sit well back!
for a couple of months store some young chestnuts in a well-ventilated, dry and cool room. When their time's up shell them then grind them. It's best to whizz them in a blender. The resulting flour is best used in cakes and bread though doesn't rise to well so is best mixed 50/50 with ordinary flour.
Can be confused with it's relative the Horse Chestnut, which bears the classic "conkers" (buckeyes) in autumn. These are poisinous but then, there have been recipes for them and children have been known to eat them.