In the states, they appear to be called buckeyes (so I suppose I'm a week late by that reckoning), but we call them CONKERS!
A few facts about conkers:
- they are the seed of the horse chestnut tree
- the Latin name is Aesculus hippocastanum
- unlike their cousin, the sweet chestnut, you can't roast these and eat them; they will give you a nassssssty belly-ache!
- having said that, properly prepared, they are believed to be beneficial for slow moving vein conditions (such as varicous veins) and also for hemorrhoids.
- they form within a shell which is soft inside, but the hard outer is usually mega spiky - OUCH!!
- the seeds ripen in the early autumn and are collected for the game of conkers (which is particularly popular amongst school children)
Conkers is a game, mainly played in Britain, Ireland and many former British colonies. It consists of a competition between two conkers, each of which has had a hole bored through it and has been threaded on a string approximately 10 - 12 inches long (shoe laces are very popular). One conker is held up at arms length, dangling on the end of its lace. The other conker is swung to strike it. This continues with conker owners taking turns until one conker breaks and falls from the lace.
The winning conker scores a point. If the two conkers are both new, the winner now becomes a one-er. However, scores are cumulative. If my conker was a none-er, but my opponants was already a five-er, my winning conker would now be a six-er (the collected score from the beaten conker, plus the point for this match!) As a child, I once had a conker which was a hundred and one-er. I gained this with a brand new conker. It beat the school champion hundred-er! Unfortunately, in so doing, it got extremely battered, and my next opponant very quickly took the glory as a hundred and two-er!
The winning conker is almost always the one which is hardest. Technique plays only a minimal part in the battle. As a result, several methods of hardening would be tried. I have known people to soak their conkers in vinegar, bake them for a short while in a warm oven, or even keep them for a year until they become dried out and shrivelled.
I confess to trying out both of the first two methods, but never had the patience for number three. Besides, half of the attraction of owning a conker is the beauty of the shell and the fun of collecting them; like pockets full of treasure, smooth and round and shiny, golden brown!
To C what other treasures there are at Alphabe-Thursday, pop over to Jenny's.