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Information about Chestnuts plus Chestnut Recipe Collection



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The European chestnut Castanea sativa belongs to the botanical family Fagaceae (also the beech and oak tree family) and is native to northern hemisphere, having long been cultivated and consumed throughout Asia, Europe and America.



Origins and History of Chestnuts


Chestnuts have been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in the Mediterranean region, and it's believed that the ancient Greeks introduced the European chestnut from Asia minor. The Romans were responsible for extending the cultivation of C. sativa into northwest and central Europe and it was the Romans named chestnuts "Castanea" but the name 'chestnut' is thought to be an English corruption of the original Latin. 




Growing Chestnuts Cultivation


The trees can grow very large (70 feet or more) and the chestnuts are produced once a year. They are contained inside a prickly case called a burr. In the autumn, once ripe, the burr splits open allowing the chestnuts to fall to the ground. By the way, don't confuse edible chestnuts with the semi-poisonous nuts of the common Horse-Chestnut tree (conkers) which ripen at the same time and are of a similar size, shape and colour. You can tell edible chestnuts from conkers by the fact that edible chestnuts have a point at the top of the nut whereas conkers don't.



Cooking Chestnuts


Chestnuts are a versatile ingredient which can be cooked in a variety of ways - boiled, roasted, steamed, microwaved, pureed and are used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Simple roasted chestnuts in their shell are absolutely delicious and are a favourite in Britain, especially at Christmas. However, before cooking in their shell they must be slit to avoid them bursting (a very messy occurrence). Once cooked, they should be shelled and the thin skin removed before eating or using in recipes. To peel chestnuts prior to cooking, slit as above and place in a pan of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Keep the chestnuts in the hot water until ready to peel as it is easier to remove the shells and skins when they are warm.




You can now buy chestnuts in a variety of ways: fresh, frozen, tinned, vacuum packed, pureed, dried and even chestnut flour for baking. Keep fresh chestnuts in the fridge in the vegetable drawer when they can be kept for up to six months. They are free of gluten, oil and cholesterol, low in protein and very low in fat but they have reasonable quantities of vitamin C and potassium and are very low in sodium.





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