10 curiosities about chestnuts

One of the most traditional traditions of my Colegio Mayor was (and I think it is still) the castañada. At the end of October or the beginning of November, for one night all the schoolgirls gathered around a television that was located by the fireplace where Don Jesús, our beloved janitor, roasted chestnuts for everyone.

The films were chosen by a democratic system consisting of adding sticks to various proposals that were noted on a sheet of paper hanging in the cafeteria. Those with the most sticks won. Simple. Actually, as you can imagine, the movie was the least of it.

Chestnut is the  rarity  of nuts, with a nutritional profile more similar to that of cereals due to its high percentage of complex carbohydrates. For this reason, in the Middle Ages, populations that lived in places with many chestnut trees and little access to cereals, used them as the main source of carbohydrates. According to some historians, everything changed when the potato arrived, which came from America and revolutionized everything.

It is one of the nuts with the lowest caloric content. 

This is because practically 50% of its composition is water, while in walnuts, for example, it is 18.5%. On the other hand, chestnuts contain 2.6 grams of fat per 100 g compared to 59 grams of walnuts. What did I just brighten up your day for? Let’s not go so fast.

2. Unlike other nuts, its omega-3 fatty acid content is very low. 

Well ladies and gentlemen, not everything is jauja and the low fat content has a toll: the omega-3 content, so appreciated in nuts, is insignificant in the case of chestnuts.

3. It is not especially rich in any vitamin or mineral.

Although there are those who praise its calcium content, at the moment of truth, taking into account that huge amounts of chestnuts are not eaten, it is not very significant.

Its phosphorous content is also notable but it is not exactly a mineral for which there are general deficiencies (for the same reason it did not make much sense when the phosphorus content of a certain delicatessen product was recently advertised).

4. There are brand name chestnuts.

Although Chinese chestnuts are spreading like wildfire due to their price, when we go shopping it is worth knowing that in Spain we have two brand chestnuts (most appreciated by chefs for their gastronomic characteristics): the  Protected Geographical Indication «Chestnut from Galicia »  And the  Guarantee Mark« Castaña de El Bierzo »

5. Raw peeling is a drama for cooks.

It is recommended to cut them in the shell and put them in boiling water or even boil them directly in the microwave as explained by Su of fried webos in this tutorial .

6. Chestnuts can be frozen.

Chestnut lovers are in luck, chestnuts in August! We can follow the steps in point 6 and freeze them without shell or freeze them even with the shell. In this case, it is convenient to cut them in the shell so that they can be roasted directly without waiting to defrost them (if we don’t, they may burst ).

7. Pilongas are dried chestnuts.

In Galicia traditionally they were dried in smoke in the so-called sequeiros, losing up to 20% of water and it was a way of conserving them for the whole year. The case is to be able to continue eating chestnuts in August.

8. Raw chestnuts contain tannins that can be irritating at the intestinal level.

To avoid this, it is recommended to allow about a week to pass after its collection.

 9. Chestnut stalls are regulated.

It is not as simple as a gentleman arriving and setting up a stove on the corner of Calle Alcalá and Goya. In Madrid, they are specifically regulated by this ordinance  in which it is explained that the only permanently authorized street food stalls are the churrerías, the ice cream parlors, the roasted chestnut stalls and the melon and watermelon stalls. My dear food trucks are out of the ordinance.

10. Chestnut recipes.

I do not know if they will be the best, but here I present the ones that won the “Cociña con castaña de Galicia” contest  . Given that they are true experts in the field, it may be worth taking a look at them.

** EYE! It is important not to confuse the chestnuts that we talk about in this post, that is,  the chestnuts that are eaten, with those that abound in our parks and fields these days. An example of a false chestnut is the one we see in this image, photographed this weekend in Cabanillas (Segovia) by my friend Antonio (practically at gunpoint without really understanding why).


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