Chestnuts trees once blanketed the eastern United States, but a terrible blight wiped out domestic chestnut production. Today, the best tasting chestnuts sold commercially in the United States are imported from Italy.
Our Italian chestnuts have been grown for generations in the forests of Italyís Campania Region. The chestnut trees grow along the ridges and across the hillsides where it is difficult to plant in-line crops. The trees produce quietly during the summer and early fall. Chestnut farmers - the Contadini - begin late in September and work through the end of October, picking up the spined burrs, the mature fruit of which the castagne or marrons (the nuts) are the seeds. The burrs are fibrous as they mature and when opened reveal their brownish, delectable contents.
The fresh chestnut (catanea sativa) is available from October to January. The season begins with Columbus Day and extends through New Yearís but itís the Holidays that bring the traditional roasted chestnuts, as much a part of Christmas as the mistletoe and eggnog. Chestnuts are also great for chestnut soups, muffins, breads, dips, crepes and much more. Our recipe section can start you off on a number of ways to surprise and delight your cooking using both fresh and roasted Italian chestnuts.