Native, healthy and irresistibly tasty
Almost no-one can resist the smell of roasted chestnuts and the good news is: you’re advised to dig in. Chestnuts of the edible kind are extremely healthy. Low on fat, they are high on protein and the many complex carbohydrates that ensure long-lasting satiety – the ideal snack for an energy boost in between meals.
Valuable nutrients include
B vitamins, which are good for strong nerves.
vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system.
minerals such as potassium and magnesium, both of which aid metabolism.
Chestnut forest in the northeast
In the colder months of the year, everyone in Switzerland is talking about the chestnuts we call ‘Marroni’. After all, we all like eating them and we all call them by this name. Strictly speaking, however, there is a difference: while all ‘Marroni’ chestnuts come from sweet chestnut trees, not all sweet chestnut trees deliver ‘Marroni’. These are just one of the many cultivated, edible varieties, of which there are more than 140 in Ticino. The surprising thing is that sweet chestnut trees grow not only in the south of Switzerland. One of the largest forests can be found on the northern side of the Alps in Murg on Lake Walen: 1,850 trees, many of which are more than a hundred years old. Chestnuts found lying on the ground can be picked up and taken home.
Making a comeback
Other Swiss regions north of the Alps also used to house extensive forests, as chestnuts were one of the most important foods of all for the poor. However, potato cultivation and industrialisation put paid to the «bread from the trees».
Now that consumers and producers are taking a renewed interest in old and native products, chestnuts are experiencing a comeback and are treated as a delicacy.
Buy in bulk
If you buy chestnuts from wholesalers or at markets, you can recognise good quality by a shiny and smooth skin. If the skin is dull, the fruit is old and dry. There should also be no sign of any worm holes in the skin.
Fresh chestnuts keep at room temperature for a week, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a month. You can also freeze chestnuts unpeeled. Use within six months.
Alternative for coeliacs
They are in hot demand when roasted – either from the chestnut stand or from the oven at home. And as an ingredient for all kinds of foods: polenta and purée, honey and jam. There's also chestnut beer and chestnut coffee.
Vermicelli: make yourself
If you find shop-bought vermicelli too sweet and filling, it is easy to make yourself. Boil up some milk flavoured with fresh vanilla and a little sugar. Add peeled and cooked chestnuts and blend into a purée. Leave to cool, then add a splash of ‘Kirsch’ cherry brandy or cognac and push through a vermicelli press. Serve with unsweetened cream, as desired.
Lukewarm spelt and chestnut salad
Ingredients (for 2 persons)
- approx. 250 ml vegetable stock
- 125 g spelt wheat
- 150 g frozen chestnuts
For the dressing:
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1½ tbsp. vegetable stock
- 1½ tbsp. rapeseed oil
- freshly ground pepper
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 1-1½ tbsp. cranberries from a jar or cranberry jam
- 1 pair pork sausages (if desired)
- Bring the stock to the boil, add the spelt wheat and chestnuts, simmer covered for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to expand for 20 minutes.
- Mix all the dressing ingredients and season.
- Heat the sausages in water, leave to stand for 10 minutes.
- Shortly before serving, carefully mix the dressing into the spelt and chestnuts. Enjoy with the hot sausages.