The bare bones of the plants we eat


Next: Hazelnuts

Scientific name – Castanea sativa

Top & bottom: peeled nuts showing the ridged outer surface. Middle section: whole and sectioned peeled nuts showing the white kernel. The shape and colour of the nuts varies considerably from tree to tree.

Most chestnuts are imported from France and Spain and are usually roasted. Unlike other nuts they contain very little fat. The sweetened puree is delicious in desserts and whole chestnuts can be added to winter stews, stuffings and pies. Peeling chestnuts can be difficult and the simplest method is to place the chestnuts in a saucepan of boiling water, turn off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Remove the chestnuts with a slotted spoon then leave until cool enough to handle and peel with a sharp knife. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts have a high carbohydrate content comparable to that of wheat and rice and twice as much as potatoes, but are low in protein and fat. Chestnuts are available fresh, ground, dried, puréed or vacuum-packed. Chestnuts ground into flour have a sweet strong flavour and a slightly pasty texture when cooked.