Chestnuts have a sweet taste and a starchy flesh similar to potatoes. Use them as a vegetable or add into baked goods and desserts.
Chestnuts are roasting, dessert, and stuffing favorites - especially at holiday time and year-round in Europe and . The Castanea tree is a member of the beech family. The nuts are not related to horse chestnuts (toxic) or water chestnuts (an aquatic root). Cooking in some manner is required to remove tannic acid, which will cause digestive pains.
A low-fat, high starch content gives them the texture of potatoes, which means they can be cooked like a vegetable. Once harvested, they’re left to “cure,” and develop a sweetness.
The chestnut has a long history of use as a potato replacement during times of drought, famine, and war. It was indeed a food for the poor in many parts of the world. ’s crops (including native and European varieties) were almost eradicated in 1904 with the introduction of an infested Asian species. Most crops are now grown in , , , and .
Canned puree and paste – sweetened and unsweetened - are available in some areas and used for both sweet and savory dishes. Cooked and peeled chestnuts are usually vacuum-packed to remain fresh. Candied chestnuts (marron glacé) can be purchased for garnishing and as additions to ice cream and puddings.
Raw chestnuts should have a glossy shell with no cracks, holes, or blemishes. If they feel light or rattle, the meat is too old.
Unshelled nuts can be stored for up to a month in a cool spot (refrigerated for best results). Always refrigerate shelled and peeled nuts; they’ll keep for about a week. Freeze (shelled/unshelled) for up to six months.
• Before preparing chestnuts by any method, the skin must be lightly cut (a long slit or an “X,” usually on the flat side). When done, the outer shell and thin skin layer must be removed.
• Chestnuts can be prepared a number of ways: roasting, baking, boiling, and braising (also known as marrons braisés, which is the typical French method for use in poultry dishes). Microwaving is also effective.
• Puree and mash boiled chestnuts, then add a sweetener and include in