I live with a family of squirrels. It’s hard work getting any of them to ruthlessly sort and recycle. And so at this time of year we are usually sinking under a pile of horse chestnuts. It started me thinking about the uses for conkers,  other than the knuckle bashing delights of the game.We’ve been fairly creative in our use of conkers over the years.

  • Use them to decorate the church for Harvest Festival or your home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. They look great in a seasonal display with some beech nuts and candles.
  • They make great additions to the dressing up or craft box – medieval currency, word art, counting tools, necklaces…..
  • Dry them out and use them as fuel on the fire, but remember they do have a tendency to be a bit explosive.
  • Use them as an alternative to mothballs in drawers and wardrobes.
  • Apparently you can keep spiders at bay with them. We love spiders as they eat flies but if you have a ‘bit of a thing’ about them, like my friend Deirdre they’ll come in useful.
  • Feed them to cattle, deer and horses (obviously!) but don’t try them yourself.
  • We are conducting a trial use as alternatives to pencil erasers this year.
  • A herbalist friend of mine tells me that horse chestnuts were used traditionally to treat malaria, varicose veins, diarrhoea, ringworm and frostbite. Fortunately we are not afflicted by any of these.

If you have any ideas to throw into the pot please let me know. We have plenty to use up, believe me. But if you just want to master the art of Conkers here’s our advice for reaching the dizzy heights of success.

  1. Float your conkers in water. Those damaged internally will float because they are less dense. Choose only those that sink to the bottom.
  2. Make your hole as cleanly as possible, no jagged edges. A cylindrical shaped hole is best and use shoelaces rather than string to suspend the conker.
  3. I’m not sure this is sportsmanlike and definitely out for serious competition but you can make your conker more robust by baking it in the oven or soaking it in vinegar. Better still, use last year’s batch. Rolling it in handcream also seems to work as it softens the impact of any blow and is therefore less likely to break up.

Happy conkering, if that is indeed the word.