Facts about chestnuts

We found 17 facts about chestnuts

Autumn delicacy

Chestnut is not the same tree that is common in our gardens and parks, although it is colloquially called by that name. Chestnut, unlike horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), provides tasty, edible fruit - nuts called maroons. Eating chestnuts has a centuries-old tradition. In the past, they were the only source of carbohydrates for many people. Today, we eat them in autumn for pleasure, and also in traditional dishes in many parts of the world.

To quote the classic–secret agent Hans Kloss from the Polish 1960s comedy More Than Life At Stakes–"The best chestnuts are sold at the Pigalle Square. Zuzanna likes them only in the fall."

Chestnuts are deciduous trees and shrubs of the Castanea genus, belonging to the Fagaceae family.

The Fagaceae family includes economically important types of trees that are a source of wood raw material (including beeches and oaks). Many species also provide edible seeds, especially the sweet chestnut and Chinese chestnut.

The name chestnut also refers to the edible nuts they produce.

The chestnut genus includes eight species.

In Europe there is the chestnut (Castanea sativa), in North America - the American chestnut (Castanea dentata), and the remaining species of chestnut grow in China and Japan.

Chestnuts are tall trees reaching 30-40 meters in height, rarely up to 70 meters (Castanea henryi), as well as shrubs.

The sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) is a tree up to 35 meters high with a trunk covered with brown, deeply cracked bark and a dense spherical crown. The leaves are single, leathery, stiff, and toothed, often having a pointed appendage at the ends of the teeth. In autumn, the leaves usually turn yellow and are shed for the winter.

Chestnut flowers are dioecious and monoecious. They are collected in spike-shaped inflorescences. They bloom in June-July. The fruit of the chestnut tree are nuts placed in a strongly spiny, spherical covering. The nuts are covered with a thin, brown, shiny skin and ripen in October-November.

Chestnuts are often called maroons.

Chestnuts come from temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

They occur in forests, often in mountainous areas and mountain valleys, where they sometimes play the role of the dominant species. This was the case with the American chestnut until the 1930s when it was almost eliminated by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica imported from Asia.

Chestnuts have been known to mankind for millennia, when they were a staple food in southern Europe, Turkey, and southwest Asia, largely replacing cereals where its cultivation was difficult.

Evidence of human cultivation of chestnuts dates back to around 2000 BC. Alexander the Great and the Romans planted chestnuts throughout Europe during their various campaigns. The Greek army is said to have survived the withdrawal from Asia Minor in 401-399 BC thanks to the supply of chestnuts.

The ancient Greeks - Dioscorides and Galen - wrote about chestnuts in the context of their medicinal properties, as well as flatulence caused by excessive consumption.

For the early Christians, chestnuts symbolized purity.

Until the introduction of potatoes, entire communities that did not have access to wheat flour relied on chestnuts as their main source of carbohydrates.

From 1583 records are saying that "Infinity of people live solely on chestnut trees." In 1584, the governor of Genoa ordered all farmers and landowners to plant four trees a year, one of which was chestnut, and the others were olives, figs, and mulberries. Many communes owed their prosperity to the emerging chestnut forests.

In 1802, an Italian agronomist said of Tuscany that "chestnut fruit is practically the only source of subsistence for our highlanders."

Chestnuts were once found only south of the Alps.

The Romans spread them in Western Europe and Slovakia. Currently, chestnuts are grown in the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus.

In Poland, chestnuts are grown in Western Pomerania and Lower Silesia.

Chestnuts are mainly a carbohydrate food and in some areas, they are called "bread trees".

In terms of nutrients, they cannot be compared to other nuts. Raw chestnuts consist of 60% water and contain 44 g of carbohydrates, 2 g of protein, and 1 g of fat, providing 200 kcal per 100 g. The carbohydrate content in chestnuts is comparable to the content in wheat and rice.

They contain twice as much starch as potatoes. They contain about 8% of various sugars, mainly sucrose, glucose, fructose, and, in smaller amounts, stachyose and raffinose, which are fermented in the large intestine and produce gases.

Chestnuts are one of the few "nuts" that contain vitamin C.

100 g of chestnuts contain 48% of the daily requirement for this vitamin. In addition to vitamin C, they also contain B vitamins, vitamin A, and a number of minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.

The content of copper and manganese deserves special attention. 100 g of chestnuts covers about 50% of the daily requirement for copper and about 20% for manganese.

A large amount of antioxidants contained in chestnuts protects the body against free radicals. They also contain a certain amount of lignans (plant compounds resembling estrogen) and aescin - a chemical compound that helps seal blood vessels.

They have been used in folk medicine since ancient times.

Mainly in digestive system diseases and headaches. According to German monks, they were supposed to cure pancreas and liver ailments. The crushed chestnut pulp was mixed with honey and given to the sick.

In 2020, the global production of cultivated chestnuts was 2.322.000 tons.

China ranks first in production (75 percent), followed by Bolivia and Spain.

In many countries, chestnuts are a valued culinary ingredient and traditional product.

In Japan, chestnuts are always served as part of the New Year's menu. They symbolize both successes and difficult times - mastery and strength. In South Korea, roasted chestnuts are a popular winter snack and also a symbol of abundance in ancestral rituals.

In the Philippines, they are traditionally sold as street food during the holiday season. In Madeira, the traditional drink is a chestnut liqueur, which is becoming more and more popular among tourists and on the Portuguese mainland.

Chestnuts can be eaten both raw and after heat treatment.

When eaten raw, they can be a bit tart, especially if the skin is not removed. Another method is to bake them, which does not require peeling. Before baking, however, you should cut them slightly so that they do not explode.

Chestnuts can be dried and ground into flour, which can be used to bake bread, cakes, pancakes, pancakes, pasta, and polenta (known as pulenda in Corsica) or used as a thickener for stews, soups, and sauces.

Chestnut bread stays fresh for up to two weeks.

Chestnuts can also be eaten candied, boiled, deep-fried, grilled, or baked for both sweet and savory purposes.

They can be used to stuff vegetables, poultry, and other foodstuffs. They are available dried, fresh, ground, or canned. Candied chestnuts are sold under the French name marrons glaces or the Turkish name kestane şekeri ("sugar chestnuts").

In Spain, on October 31, All Hallows' Eve, Catalonia celebrates a celebration during which, in addition to other traditional dishes, chestnuts are also served. In Hungarian cuisine, puree is made of chestnuts and sugar (sometimes rum) and served as a dessert with whipped cream.

Chestnuts are not easy to peel when cold.

One kilogram of chestnuts yields approximately 700 g of shelled chestnuts.

Chestnut wood is also valuable.

Chestnut belongs to the same family as oak and, like its wood, it contains many tannins. This makes the wood very durable and has excellent resistance to external conditions. Moreover, it is a decorative wood.

There are three outstanding chestnut trees in the world.

One of them is the Hundred Horse Chestnut located in Sicily. It is believed to be over 3,000 years old. It consists of three large shoots that may have a common root system - if this were the case, it would also be the largest tree in the world.

Legend has it that during the expedition to Mount Etna, Queen Joan of Aragon and all her knights took shelter from the storm under the branches of this tree. Since then, the chestnut tree, also visited by Goethe and many other distinguished people, has been called "the chestnut of a hundred horses."

The second is the Tortworth Great Chestnut, probably the most famous edible chestnut in Britain. Because many of the branches of its huge, twisting main trunk have taken root and started life as solitary trees, it now looks like a small forest.

Another is the Holy Chestnut of Istan in Andalusia. It is probably the oldest tree in the entire Sierra de las Nieves, as it is estimated to be between eight hundred and one thousand years old. Its circumference is approximately 13.5 meters.

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