Sunday, 17 October 2010

Big fat Chestnuts

I really should listen to my children a bit more, they are far more vigilant at this foraging lark than we are.

At the park yesterday Adam and I were sitting on a bench enjoying the unseasonal warmth while Willow, Xanthe and their friend frolicked in the distance. Willow periodically mithered us to 'come and look', assuming it was yet another dance show of some description we demurred. However, Willow knows how to get our attention and mentioned the word 'walnut'. Walnuts you say? Now that's different ....

"No, not walnuts, that's not what I mean, the spiky ones, like in the park but edible", "Chestnuts?", "Yes! That's it, chestnuts!"

Last year's chestnut forage was a bit lacklustre. Our usual tree had bizarrely small nuts but I managed to find another with not quite so small nuts so all was not lost but it wasn't bounteous either. However, this year, Willow's new tree was amazing. Adam actually held up one of the chestnuts and scoffed "well, this is clearly a conker, you never get sweet chestnuts this big!" but he was wrong, it was a sweet chestnut. All of them are big, fat, shiny and beautiful. Certainly the biggest chestnuts we've found to date. 15 minutes picking gave us 4lbs of chestnuts.

It's interesting to read last year's blog post. It seems that in 2008 the chestnuts fell in early November. 2009 was a dry Autumn producing under-developed nuts which fell earlier - late September/early October while this year's wet Autumn has produced bigger, later nuts. Adam's hoping to log a couple of decade's worth of chestnut related data so he can produce graphs and suchlike illustrating the correlation between nut size, weather and ripening. Yes, dear reader, I did marry a geek - we all have our cross to bear.

Oh, and we forgot our most basic of nut foraging rules - wear a hat. Adam was narrowly missed by falling spiky chestnut case and I whacked my head on a low hanging branch and have a bleeding scalp to show for my efforts.

So, yeah, wear a hat!


  1. I do envy you.... we have been unable to find a sweet chestnut around here. When we lived in Germany we used to harvest them, cook and peel them and then freeze them ready for stuffing in the turkey come christmas... I do miss that.

  2. Ooh lovely - what are you going to do with them? Will have to look out for them this way on, but all I normally seem to find is conkers.

    Take care


  3. Billie Jane - how did you cook and peel them? I find the peeling really fiddly and painful so don't really bother.

    Pattypan - due to the peeling issue we just roast them. I'll freeze them when we've had enough and get out a handful every now and then over the winter.

  4. I have a gadget which looks one one side like half an ice cream scoop and the other side is like a long peg with like a razor blade set centrally which I have used. It puts a slit into the chestnut to stop them exploding. bought this gadget quite a few years ago. However I understand that the same can be achieved with a sharp knife on the flat side of the chestnut. I also have a chestnut roasting pan which I bought from Lakeland about 15 years ago and which can be used on top of the cooker. I thought that they had brought this out again but with smaller holes in it. I love roast chestnuts; you can make a jam which I haven't tried yet, you can make marrons glace, and I believe that there is a liqueur you can make too.




  5. I don't know that I like chestnuts...but I know where there is a chestnut tree so maybe a few pickings would be a good idea for experimenting with...I have found a walnut tree down our allotments but there are no nuts on it...what do you do with chestnuts??

  6. How big is your walnut tree? Our local ones are massive full trees but I have seen one about 8' tall which only had a few nuts on it.

    Personally I just roast the chestnuts and eat them on cold Autumn evenings in front of the tv as I find this the easiest way to eat them. Just make a cut in the skin (to prevent them exploding) and put them in a hot oven for about 20/25 mins.

    There are loads of other recipes (I always fancied chestnut jam) but the main problem is peeling them, doing a large pile is a major chore!

  7. Hi Tracey - my hubby used to peel them raw (while watching the telly) and then we poached them until soft and then vacuum packed and froze them. Hubby says that if you pierce them and then cook them with the skin on in hot water they are easier to peel - but I think they are hard to peel whatever you do with them... but soooo worth it! Now I am craving some.