Chestnuts trees originated from China and Japan and brought to Lombardy Northern Italy by Roman armies and were known to be harvested in France as far back as the 16th century. They were brought to the states primarily in Pennsylvania in the early 1900’s but a fungus blight killed most of the crops for years. Since then they have back crossed Chinese trees with the most popular American chestnut trees to develop blight resistant trees that are now planted in Italy, northern Europe, China and in some Midwestern states mostly in mountain terrain areas.
Chestnut trees bear fruit in the form of a greenish burps with long prickly spines that contain three nuts. The fruits are the size of a baseball with a fuzzy lining.
Best harvest time is September through November.
Chestnuts are relatively low in calories, contain less fat but are rich in minerals and high in fiber which helps lower blood cholesterol levels. They are exceptionally rich in Vitamin C and B-6 and high in folic acid which helps prevent neural tube defects in the fetus. They are a great source of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium which helps counter hypertension and lower heart rates
HOW TO PICK:
Look for nuts that have shiny, clear, tight skins. As they age you can see that their skins lose their bright cast. Stay away from any sign of mold or rattling in the shell.
HOW TO STORE:
Keep them dry and cool in your vegetable drawer which is designed to maintain higher humidity. Remove them 2-3 days before cooking to allow them to dry out evenly.
HOW TO COOK/ ENJOY:
The best way? Oven Roasting. Score each chestnut, place in a single layer baking dish at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Shake the tray once or twice during roasting. Peel and enjoy while they’re warm.
Boiling – If you’re using them as an ingredient to another dish, the water helps soften the skin and makes them easier to remove – add salt to the water.
Chestnuts are typically eaten alone or as part of a dessert. They taste great in stuffings, mashes and pair well with salty Panetta bacon.
to see this week's Produce Department