Conkers!

@owlwings (40016)
Cambridge, England
September 28, 2016 1:59pm CST
Now, be honest, what did the title first bring to mind? Look at these beauties! So shiny and brown in their spiky green cases. You might think they are edible but in fact, in spite of being so attractive and prolific, they are not good to eat, either cooked or raw. Late September and early October are the time to find these fruit under the wide-spreading Horse Chestnut trees and small boys (and many girls) used to bring them home by the pocket full, though the practice has declined somewhat in recent years. They are central to a game which has been played by children in Britain for centuries - the game of Conkers. The rules are very simple. Each child has chosen his conker with care and processed it in various secret ways (some of which include boiling it in vinegar to harden it). A hole is bored through it and a string passed through and secured with a good knot underneath. Players take turns in which one player holds his conker hanging from his outstretched hand while the other takes aim and gives it as hard a hit as he can with his own conker. If one of the conkers shatters, the survivor gains a point and that conker is called a "Oner". If it survives the next contest, it is called a "Twoer" and so on. There are several other rules and customs associated with the game which are detailed in the page below. Do you have any game like this, perhaps with other fruits or nuts? We also used to play a very similar game in the summer with the hard heads of knapweed or the heads of plantains (the grassland plant, not the relative of the banana).
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14 people like this
14 responses
@MALUSE (45786)
• Uzbekistan
28 Sep 16
I've never heard of the game conkers. I don't think that it's known in Germany. I live near a park and when I see the shiny brown things I *have* to pick some up and put them in my pocket. Pity that their shiny beauty doesn't last. I used to tell my pupils that I do this because they're good at warding off rheumatism. I was always shocked that they believed me. Not one pupil ever doubted this. A proof of my authority! Of course, this is nonsense, but there is some truth in it, too. Pharmacies sell salves and other medicine made of chestnuts against rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis.
Horse Chestnut has many health benefits such as treating spider veins, rheumatoid arthritis, and reducing the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite.
4 people like this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
The only thing I've seen Horse Chestnut extract used for is as an additive in bath lotions by Badedas. I always thought that it was the saponins which made it useful but I see that it has astringent properties as well. I wasn't aware of its use in varicose veins and oedema. It always puzzled me that a tree which is so easy to grow and so prolific seemed to have so few practical uses.
@topffer (36613)
• Singapore, Singapore
28 Sep 16
I picked also horse chestnuts when I was at school, but I never heard about this game of conkers before. In September the interesting thing to find near horse chestnut trees were cockchafters. Bigger were the better to catch, and we were making kites with them by fixing a thread around them under the elytra. Catching a full match box of them to release them in a classroom was more risky, but there was not a year without an invasion of cockchatfers in classrooms.
2 people like this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
I remember cockchafers as well. I was always rather disgusted by them, though we knew they didn't bite. I don't remember them being very common and I haven't seen one for years. We were never cruel enough to think of tying them up with thread or naughty enough to release them in the classroom but then I was a pretty innocent child!
1 person likes this
@topffer (36613)
• Singapore, Singapore
29 Sep 16
@owlwings They are less invasive than before, but I have seen a few cockchafers this year. Children are not doing anymore kites with them, they have other toys to play with.
1 person likes this
@pgntwo (22752)
• Alanya, Turkey
28 Sep 16
T'is the season... Lovely chestnuts, a rich, deep brown. I missed out on this aspect of childhood, living instead for the time spent standing on the shore with a line off a bamboo pole catching whatever the ses offered in return for a snail or ball of bread on a hook... :)
2 people like this
@divalounger (2247)
• United States
28 Sep 16
They look a lot like filberts actually--are you sure they aren't filberts???
1 person likes this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
No, they are not filberts but Horse Chestnuts. Filberts (or cobnuts or hazel nuts) have a hard shell and a leafy covering. These have a fairly soft brown skin. They are a little like the Sweet Chestnuts which are usually roasted or used for stuffing meat and poultry but these ones aren't edible.
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Sep 16
@owlwings So interesting! They are really quite pretty!
1 person likes this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
@divalounger You might know the tree as Buckeye. The flowers are quite spectacular, too - large spikes of white or pink in May which look rather like candles on a Christmas Tree.
1 person likes this
@sueznewz2 (10156)
• Alicante, Spain
30 Sep 16
I love conkers.. ,we used to play it a lot in my child hood, my highest scoring conker was a fourer...lol, it was demolished by a niner...if the little lad was to be believed ..lol..
1 person likes this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
30 Sep 16
So then he had a fourteener (4 + 1 + 9)! I bet he was chuffed!
1 person likes this
@sueznewz2 (10156)
• Alicante, Spain
30 Sep 16
@owlwings yes... and I was not...
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (187659)
• Switzerland
29 Sep 16
I have never seen this game. I remember I picked up conkers in Milan, there are plenty in the park in front of the apartment of my Mother. We use the conkers to make soap. An old superstition suggested to keep a conker in our pocket all the winter to avoid to get a cold. It never worked, of course.
1 person likes this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
I never heard that superstition but they are lovely things to have in one's pocket, nevertheless. They become polished like old mahogany and interestingly lumpy as they dry out. I am becoming increasingly surprised that conkers (or some equivalent game) seems not to be known outside England.
1 person likes this
@LadyDuck (187659)
• Switzerland
29 Sep 16
@owlwings I have noticed that also the other users seem not to know the game.
1 person likes this
@Drosophila (16694)
• Ireland
28 Sep 16
I don't think I've seen conkers game for a while seems they don't have it here
1 person likes this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
One site says that the game is known in Ireland but it may mean Northern Ireland, of course. I know nothing about the history of the game or how old it is but the Horse Chestnut was introduced into Britain as an ornamental in the late 16th Century. I wonder whether the game was previously played with acorns or Sweet Chestnuts but I can't find any reference to that.
1 person likes this
@Drosophila (16694)
• Ireland
29 Sep 16
@owlwings ya also kids these days are most likely to be fiddling their phone than anything else.. prolly have a "conker" version of the game out on the phones soon!
1 person likes this
@AliCanary (1852)
4 Oct 16
Oh, I had no idea about the title, because we call those thingies "buckeyes" where I'm from. It's actually the mascot of Ohio State University, maybe because they are tough!
1 person likes this
@Poppylicious (10076)
29 Sep 16
I never played this ... I was always scared of the big boys who played it and had pockets full of conkers!
1 person likes this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
I didn't play conkers a lot. Like you, I found it rather competitive and sometimes threatening when older boys waded in. It was never girls who played it in my day. They stuck to skipping and hopscotch and other things.
@Inlemay (17164)
• South Africa
29 Sep 16
sounds like good old fun - do you think the children of today still play games like this?
1 person likes this
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
It has dropped off a lot since the '50s when I was of the age. These days, adults have waded in with their safety restrictions. Sometimes the game is banned, occasionally it is supervised and players are required to wear safety goggles.and such sensible rubbish (!). I don't recall any serious injury: we all knew what it was like to be hit on the face by an exploding conker, though, and we weren't stupid!
1 person likes this
@jstory07 (72209)
• Roseburg, Oregon
3 Oct 16
I have heard of that game before but I have never played it.
1 person likes this
@celticeagle (121017)
• Boise, Idaho
28 Sep 16
Sounds like an interesting games for kids. Gets them away from the computers.
1 person likes this
@Jessicalynnt (47879)
• Centralia, Missouri
28 Sep 16
lol, I had no idea those were part of a game! I just had one as a worry stone as I liked the feel under my thumb
1 person likes this
@TheHorse (74731)
• Walnut Creek, California
29 Sep 16
They look like they'd be tasty roasted on an open fire. But I guess they're like our "buckeyes"--almost useless eye candy.
@owlwings (40016)
• Cambridge, England
29 Sep 16
I believe that "buckeye" is one of the names they have in the US. In England we call them Horse Chestnuts - 'Horse' (pace a certain Californian) being an epithet applied to several plants and meaning 'false'. For example, Horse Radish and Horse Parsley.