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The Center for Agroforestry

UMCA News Release

Chestnut roast to highlight state's ag specialty products, Oct. 18

September 19, 2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Celebrating fall harvest season has never been more fun.

Missouri's agricultural specialty products will be front and center at the sixth annual Missouri Chestnut Roast, Saturday, Oct. 18, at the University of Missouri Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin, Mo.

The roast, sponsored by the MU Center for Agroforestry and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, features fall family fun with chestnuts as the main ingredient. Activities include samples of fire-roasted, Missouri-grown chestnuts, live bluegrass and Caribbean/Spanish guitar music, displays and sales of Missouri specialty agricultural products, farm tours and cooking demonstrations with chestnuts.

The Center for Agroforestry supports the nation's most comprehensive research program for developing the Chinese chestnut as a nut crop to bring the chestnut back to the nation's dinner (and dessert) plates. Mike Gold, UMCA associate director, explains that the American chestnut was almost wiped out in the early 20th century due to blight. However, closely related Chinese chestnuts grow well in Missouri soil and are increasingly in demand as gourmet restaurants and food stores discover their versatility.

"Chestnuts are perfect roasted over an open fire, with their nutty, sweet flavor," Gold said. "However, there is no end to the number of ways chestnuts can be prepared and served."

They can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes, from soups and poultry to appetizers, casseroles and pastries, he said. Items like chestnut baking flour are emerging to meet demand in the gluten-free and restricted diets market. Niche markets for gourmet products like chestnut honey and specialty sauces are also growing.

Activities begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m. The Ironweed Bluegrass Band and Eco Gitano, a group specializing in a blend of Caribbean and Spanish guitar, will provide musical entertainment. The New Franklin High School Athletic Booster Club will operate a concessions stand offering grilled elk, buffalo and beef products for sale.

Craig Cyr, executive chef of The Wine Cellar and Bistro in Columbia, and Eric Cartwright, executive chef at MU Campus Dining Services-Plaza 900, will prepare recipes that incorporate chestnuts and local foods during cooking demonstrations. Attendees can watch the creation of and taste these one-of-a-kind chestnut creations.

Vendors will feature a variety of locally grown agricultural specialty products including chestnut, pecan and walnut products; wines and specialty beers; ice cream; mustard; goat cheeses; tomato products; meat products; and elderberry products.

The Missouri Chestnut Roast is a kid-friendly event. Children will have plenty to keep them busy, including a live bat presentation by the U.S. Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station, at 12:45 p.m.; Missouri Chestnut Roast Fact Hunt; and a straw bale maze.

The Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center is the site of the 1819 Thomas Hickman house, one of the state's oldest intact brick houses, which is currently undergoing an historic rehabilitation. Tours will be available throughout the day.

There will be guided bus and walking tours of the research center for those interested in learning more about agroforestry practices.

The event wraps up National Chestnut Week, which runs Oct. 12-18.

Admission to the Missouri Chestnut Roast is free. Most activities will take place under tents for comfort rain or shine. Service animals are permitted at the roast, but pets are not allowed.

For directions and a schedule of the day's events, see, or contact Julie Rhoads at 573-882-3234 or

--Michelle Hall
Senior Information Specialist
Center for Agroforestry
University of Missouri
(573) 882-9866

Julie Rhoads, 573-882-3234; Michael Gold, 573-884-1448

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