Chestnut groves

The old nourishing chestnut grove provided the chestnuts which for a long time were the basis of the Perigordine diet when bread was scarce.

They were dried in clediers to preserve them until spring or left in heaps in the buggies at the foot of the trees for certain varieties. They were blanched in chestnut jars or eaten grilled in a pan with holes.

The chestnut coppices were used for barrel hoops and staves, vine stakes and slats for basketry by the leaf makers and for coal by the charcoal makers in the coppices.

The golden age of this crop intervened with the improvement of the communication routes from 1830 onwards, which allowed a wider marketing of chestnuts from the Périgord to Bordeaux and then England, making the Dordogne the leading producing department in France in 1880.

The improvement in the standard of living and the accompanying drop in demand for chestnuts led to a rapid abandonment of chestnut groves. From 1900, the old chestnut trees were felled to supply the tannin industry in the factories of Couze and Lardin-Saint Lazare. Then, the ink sickness that occurred between 1928 and 1950 further weakened the Périgord chestnut grove despite attempts to revive this crop around 1920 .

Illustrations :

– Postcard on the chestnut harvest in Périgord in the 1920s (Collection Henri Brives or Iconothèque de la SHAP24)

– Postcard of the chestnut market in Piégut in the 1900s. Chestnut markets were then distinct from other foodstuffs in Périgueux, Monpazier, Piégut-Pluviers or Villefranche du Périgord in particular. (Collection Henri Brives)

– Postcard of the merchant of paradise who collected chestnut shavings from the chestnut trees to sell them in farms to light the fire in the 1900s (Collection Henri Brives)

– Postcard of the tannin factory of Couze in the Dordogne valley around 1900 (Collection Henri Brives)