HARDLY ANYONE CAN REFUSE ROASTED CHESTNUTS
Across the Mediterranean, where chestnuts are popular at this time of the year, it is common to see street vendors standing by their hot ovens, carefully roasting chestnuts over the fire. The scent of freshly roasted chestnuts spreads a nostalgic atmosphere, as if time has stood still. Childhood memories are awakened when you warm your hands on the hot chestnuts, wrapped in newspaper, and slowly peel each little treasure to enjoy with relish.
Sweet chestnuts grow in Central Asia more than 3,000 years ago and spread from there. It is believed that the ancient Greeks introduced and cultivated the first chestnut trees in the Mediterranean. The nuts were originally processed into flour and used to bake bread or pastries, as well as being cultivated as a source of wood. During the Roman Empire, they spread to northern Europe. The Latin name Castanea is believed to derive from the city of Castanea in the Roman Empire, where the tree was particularly common.
FROM THE MIDDLE AGES TO MODERN TIMES, CHESTNUTS WERE A STAPLE FOOD, ESPECIALLY AMONG THE POORER POPULATION, BECAUSE THEY WERE CHEAP AND THE HIGH CARBOHYDRATE CONTENT WAS PARTICULARLY FILLING IN THE WINTER MONTHS.
Chestnuts are the edible fruit of deciduous trees in the family Castanea from the beech family Fagaceae. There are four main types of chestnuts, as well as several smaller types. The four main species are the Japanese chestnut (Castanea crenata), the Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima), the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) and lastly the European chestnut (Castanea sativa). Horse chestnuts do not belong to the sweet chestnut genus. Although the name and the fruit appear similar, they belong to different families. Horse chestnuts are inedible and even slightly poisonous. Today, the trees thrive wherever there is a warm, mild climate. They grow in bushy, spherical shapes up to twenty-five meters high. What makes this tree exceptional is its long lifespan, which can reach up to thousands of years. Il Castagno dei Cento Cavalli — The Chestnut of 100 Horses — on the eastern ridges of Mount Etna, is estimated to be 2,000 years old and believed to be the oldest chestnut tree in the world.
Read the full article in Issue 21