HAI DUONG – Every year, from the 8th to the 9th lunar month, the people of Chi Linh city go to the forest to collect chestnuts, earning 350-500,000 VND (15-25$)per day.
At noon on October 31, in the forest at Ho Dinh dam, Ho Su village, Hoang Hoa Tham commune, dozens of women wearing gloves quickly picked up chestnuts that had fallen to the ground.
Mrs. Toan seemed the oldest in the jungle that day. She said that because she was over 70 years old, her legs were weak and her eyes were blurry, she only picked them up around the foot of the mountain. In addition to the glove and basket, she has a small iron rod to scratch the leaves to reveal the seeds. “My eyes are weak so I have to wear glasses to see,” she said, picking up chestnuts scattered on the ground.
About a hundred meters high, Nguyen Thi Thinh’s parents and children were picking up the army’s training trenches. This year is 67 years old, and her limbs are a bit slow, but thanks to going early, saving each seed, soon the basket in her hand is full of shiny seeds. “Today, my daughter returned early, so she took advantage of picking up the bottom with me, but my daughter-in-law picked it up to the top,” Thinh shared.
Mrs. Thinh’s house is in Dong Chau village, 3 km from this forest. This year, the forest near her house lost its chestnut crop, so she had to go here to pick it up. On average, she picked up a kilogram in an hour, Mrs. Thinh left in the morning, so she gained about 8 kg, while her daughter Thoan just left at noon and picked up 4 kg.
The higher you go, the younger and stronger people you will meet, and the number of people they will pick up is also much higher. About a kilometer from the foot of the mountain, Ms. Phuong, 37, has been sitting around a chestnut tree for an hour. She said this root is wrong and the fruit is big, so pick it up quickly. “The experience is that if you stick to the chestnut tree canopy, that location will have more seeds than other places,” said a woman living in Ben Bath ward, about 15 km away.
Phuong considers this job a livelihood . From the beginning of the season to now, she has gone for more than a dozen sessions, at the peak of the season, she picked up 15 kg. Every day when she goes to the forest, she brings lunch and drinks water. “This job is tiring for eyes, neck, and legs, but it’s still better than farming. Hard work can earn half a million dong a day,” she said.
At the edge of Ho Su forest, 42-year-old Nguyen Thi Thuyet has been attached her whole life to the chestnut seasons. While the average person picks up an average of 10 kg per day, she usually picks up 15 kg. At the peak, there were days when she brought back 18-20 kg.
With her long experience, she revealed that the time to pick up the chestnuts quickly and get the most chestnuts is not when the wind is cold as people think because the dry sun causes the chestnuts to close their mouths and fall less. “It must be the drizzly wicker winds, going to the forest to pick up chestnuts like a blessing from the sky. The fruit falls a lot, the rain makes the leaves sink, the fruit floats, the thorny bark is soft and easy to burst, easier to pick up.” Thuy shared.
The chestnut season usually starts on August 1 of the lunar calendar every year and lasts about a month. This year’s fruit fall season starts later, also less fruit than last year. Unlike Chongqing chestnuts, which have very large seeds, in Hai Duong, they are rice chestnuts, only as big as a finger, with about 1,000 seeds per kilogram.
The Chestnut forest in Chi Linh is more than 1,200 hectares. Mr. Tu Kieu Bang, head of Ho Su village, Hoang Hoa Tham commune, said that each forest has households to look after and protect. The chestnut forest here has a protective effect, keeping water for the Ho Dinh dam for irrigation. But forests also contribute to improving the lives of families in their leisure time.
“There are chestnut trees around the forests in Chi Linh, but the most concentrated is the forest in Ho Giai village, then Ho Crane. In a good year, the forest in my village has about 200 people gathering. On average one person Going to pick up every season can collect from 300 to 500 kg of seeds,” said Mr. Bang.
In recent years, collecting chestnuts is also a hobby of many people. Thuyet said that quite a lot of people outside the town went to the forest to collect chestnuts to eat. Schools also organize for students to come here to experience. “This month many people come here to collect chestnuts, next month there are still many people coming because it is the season when chestnuts bloom white and fragrant all over the hills,” she said.
For Thuyet, picking chestnuts is associated with childhood memories. During the famine, people and families rushed to the forest to collect. In order to have more seeds, people defiantly cut down trees to get fruit. There are cases of climbing the vibrating tree for the fruit to fall, falling and breaking limbs.
“Nowadays, people have easier ways to earn money, few people want to go and pick them up, so just reaching the foot of the mountain can see that the chestnuts are full,” she said. At noon on October 31, taking advantage of the time to feed the chickens, Thuyet ran to the nearby forest to pick up nearly three kilograms.
Mrs. Thinh said that at noon when she sat down to eat lunch in the middle of the forest, her mother and daughter used to review old stories. When she was a child, each forest was managed by a family, who wanted to come in and pick it up to pay 2,000 dongs a turn. With no money, her brothers and sisters went to pick up thieves during the school holidays. They collected a few pounds to exchange for rice to eat.
Over the past three years, due to the difficult circulation of Covid-19, the price of chestnuts has decreased, to about 20,000 VND per kg. This year the epidemic subsided, and traders from many places came to buy, the price increased slightly to 35,000 VND. Thuyet said that both her mother, she and her daughter picked up a lot, but there were no weights left in the house because no matter where people went, there were buyers.
When the sun goes out, people who collect chestnuts in the Ho Su forest rush down the mountain. Mrs. Thinh looked up and suddenly realized that it was already dark, and also found her way back to her sack of seeds.
Dumping a basket of seeds into a sack, a smile appeared on the woman’s face in her sixties. Dozens of pounds of chestnuts come out of the forest and someone will buy them right away. But above all the money earned, for Mrs. Thinh, her daughter-in-law, her daughter or Ms. Thuyet’s family, picking chestnuts is the joy of picking up a gift from heaven that has existed for many years.
See more photos: Chestnut picking season in Hai Duong
Keyword: Season in the forest to collect chestnuts