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Michigan becomes leader in growing chestnuts

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan farmers do more than just roast chestnuts on an open fire.
   
They grow them.
   
The Detroit Free Press reports Monday the state has become a national leader in growing chestnuts and is harvesting more than 100,000 pounds a year.
   
Roasting the nuts around Christmas still is popular, but additional uses have fueled their growth.
   
Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are full of water, not oil. That means they can be dried out and ground up to make flour. And their natural sweetness makes them ideal for pastries.
   
Chestnuts also are used to make hummus, soup and gluten-free beer.
   
The trees that grow chestnuts were nearly wiped out by a fungus in the 1950s. The comeback here has been helped in part by the work of Michigan State University researchers.