FEATURES » The many facets of Chestnuts

The many facets of Chestnuts

From late September the chestnut season officially opens in Italy and UK!

The smell of roasted chestnuts is a typical flavour of Italy which accompanies the beginning of the cold season.

Chestnuts can be eaten roasted, boiled and in many other ways. There are some delicious products derived from chestnuts: a typical Italian cake “castagnaccio” is a flat, dense cake made from chestnut flour. “Montblanc” is a mountain of whipped cream with meringue underneath, topped with chestnut paste and marron glace’. Even marron glace’ gelato exists, the creamy, smooth ice cream is studded with bits of marron glace’.

Chestnuts can also be used to make beer: Italy produces an extraordinary number of chestnut beers. The most famous and easy to find in Rome is “Birra del borgo”.

At this time of the year chestnuts are available in markets and supermarkets and chestnut flour can be found in Italian delicatessens in UK.

If you feel more adventurous, you can collect your own chestnuts instead of buying them. Chestnuts can be found in large amounts in woods but also in parks and roadsides close to the chestnuts trees.

You just need to get up early, at dawn, to be ready to contend the delicious nuts with the local squirrels. It’s also useful to have a good stick to sweep away the leaves, and gloves to protect your hands if the cases aren’t split.

The best time to forage for chestnuts is after a storm. The first thing you need to know though is what you are looking for. For example, chestnuts trees! They can be recognized by their slender but broad leaves with serrated edges.

There are many areas of Italy which are famous for their “castagneti”, in Emilia Romagna region: Montombraro (Zocca Castelluccio di Montese), Fellicarolo (Fanano), Fontanaluccia (Frassinoro), Magrignana (Montecreto), Montombraro (Zucca) and Monzone (Pavullo).

This area is crossed by the “sentiero del castagno” a path across an area where you can find the oldest chestnuts trees. In the Abruzzo region there are castagneti delle Terre del Castellano e dei borghi dei Monti della Laga.

In Friuli Venezia Giulia chestnuts can be found in the Valle di Soffumbergo, (Udine).

In Valle d’Aosta (Val d’Aosta Bard), there is the “ecomuseo della castagna”, situated in a magnificent “castagneto”.

In Lombardia, (Alta Valcuvia) in the Varese area, for example, you can find “Campo dei fiori”, “Monte Sacro” and “Monte Barro”.

In the Lazio area, Monti Lepini.

In Sicily, while you collect chestnuts you can also have a break and visit an ancient chestnuts tree: “Il Castagno dei cavalli”, in the Parco dell’Etna which has a trunk of about 22 metres of circumference.

We also signal some of the most famous chestnut festivals:

Festa del bosco – Montone (Perugia)

Sagra del Marrone – Arcinazzo Romano (Roma)

Sagra della castagna a Summonte (Avellino)

La Keschtnriggl a Lana e dintorni (Sudtirol)

Sagra della castagna a Soriano nel Cimino (Viterbo).

 

Giulia Lombardo

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