2 DEC 2020

We go nuts!

Hazelnut folklore and the Conker Cup

This episode we go nuts! Conkers and hazelnuts to be exact! Have you ever heard of Melch Dick, a forest guardian who punished children for picking unripe nuts? Or do you know why Ministry of Munitions asked school children to collect conkers during WW1? We also interview Conker Cup representative and host of Chestnut Chat, ‘Mr Conkers’, who tells us all about the exciting sport.

Melch Dick and other Hazelnut folktales

Hazel has a long history, the nuts have been used as an important source food for thousands of years and the branches for thatching spars, wattle, baskets and more. Due to this a wealth of folklore has grown around the plant and nuts.

Excavations of Mesolithic sites in Ireland dating back 10,000 years have shown the widespread consumption of Hazelnuts. This continued into the Neolithic as people began to settle down and farm.

Today many people only have Hazelnuts at Christmas time, part of a more modern tradition.

Melch Dick

A old Yorkshire folk tale tells the story of Melch Dick, a woodland fayefolk who protected unripe Hazelnuts from being picked by Children.

If discovered it’s lure them deep into the woods...

Further reading

The Conkers of WW1

Such was the need for munitions during WW1 that schoolchildren were tasked with collecting acorns and conkers.

Through a chemical process devised by Russian biochemist Chaim Weizmann key ingredients could be extracted from horse chestnuts for the production of explosives including nitroglycerin and cordite.

Whilst 3000 tons of conkers were collected the scheme had little success as the process was inefficient and many bags of conkers where left to rot at train stations. Still the kids had a fun time!


Wartime school poster

Further reading

Interview with Chestnut Chat

We are very excited to be joined by the host of Chestnut chat this episode. He answers our questions on how the game of Conkers is played, safety and the 2020 Conker Cup tournament. The Chestnut Chat podcast is hilarious so be sure to give it a listen.

Find out more