By Susan Sharon
Thanks to Nat King Cole, it's hard to think of chestnuts without conjuring an image of them "roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose." These days, tough, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone roasting American chestnuts over an open fire. The trees and the nuts have all but disappeared.
But now, scientists are excited about the discovery of an American chestnut tree in the woods of western Maine, a record-breaking tree that's giving them hope for the future.
Growing straight and tall, chestnut trees were once prized for timber. Vendors still roast and sell European chestnuts on the streets of Manhattan, fragrant aroma and all. But the American chestnut that once dominated the Eastern woodlands, from Maine to Georgia, was virtually wiped out by a blight that was accidentally introduced from Asia.
That's why on a recent, rainy December day, a gaggle of reporters, photographers and members of the American Chestnut Foundation trudged into the woods of Lovell, Maine, to confirm some crucial measurements of a chestnut tree growing in the wild.