American chestnut trees once blanketed the east coast, with an estimated 4 billion trees spreading in dense canopies from Maine to Mississippi and Florida. These huge and ancient trees were awe-inspiring, the redwoods of the east coast, but with an extra perk - the nuts were edible.
Chestnuts were roasted, ground into flour for cakes and bread, and stewed into puddings. The leaves of the trees were boiled down into medicinal treatments by Native Americans. Finding a mature American chestnut in the wild is so rare today that discoveries are reported in the national press.