The Latin and botanical name for the tree is fagus, and was derived from the Greek word p h a go , which means to eat, alluding to the fact that the nuts have been considered good eating by the inhabitants of the countries where the beechnut grows. Botanically, it belongs to the Cupulif-erae, or Oak family. The flowers appear in the spring, with the straight-veined and serrate leaves. The calyx of the sterile flowers are bell shaped and five cleft, containing many stamens.
The fertile flowers appear in pairs on the summit of a scaly bracted peduncle. The seed-pod, which at maturity, becomes a prickly, scaly bur, contains a pair of three-sided nuts, whose kernels are tender and sweet flavored. The common beech of Europe is very similar to the American beech, excepting its leaves are broader, but not so long and pointed. The trees are usually large, with smooth ash-gray bark.
Beechnut Leaf, Bur, and Nut.
Western Chinkapin Beech
Chinkapin.- I. Fruiting Cluster; 2, 2. Leaves; 3. Common Form of Fruiting Cluster; 3a, 3b. Nut of Common Chinkapin; 4. Spiked Form of Fruiting Cluster; 4a, 4b. Nut of Spiked Chinkapin.
Western Chinkapin Beech
Chinkapin.- 5. Tree Chinkapin Bur; 6, 7, 8, 9. Nuts of Tree Chinkapin. Beech - 10. Twig, Leaf, Bur, and Nut; 11, 12. Beech Burs.
The early writers of Greece and Rome frequently refer to this nut. Vergil and Pliny speak highly of the beechnut as an article of food. Pliny informs us that at the siege of Chios, the besieged inhabitants lived upon the beechnut alone for some time.
There are many species of the beech, but they are all similar, some having larger leaves and nuts than others. Among them are the following: the American beech, the European beech, and the Evergreen beech. The hnut is quite small, and hard to gather, making it unproperable to gather them for sale. For this reason very few of then are sold in the markets.
The beech-wheat, more commonly called buckwh so named on account of its kernels have the the shape of the beechnut. The kernels are small and dark -brown color, on the outside, and three-sided, but in it is more like ordinary wheat.
In the forests, the beechnut affords food for many wild animals and birds. The nut contains considerable oil, and they have experimented on extracting it for salads and cook-ing purposes. Formerly beechnut oil was made in France in considerable quantities and used for frying fish and as a messing on salads. The country people of Silesia use it instead of butter, and that which remains after the oil is taken out, they feed to swine, poultry, and cattle.