They were introduced in Europe during the Roman Empire and current research confirms that Italy was the first country where they were cultivated. They have very beneficial properties such as their high vitamina B1 and B6 content. And while they are a classic for Christmas festivities, they can be used in many recipes year round.

As with most members of the nut family, chestnuts are a typically autumnal food. The most commonly consumed chestnuts is the European chestnut, although there are three other types – the Chinese, Japanese and American varieties. These fours types of chestnuts are actually quite similar with the main differences being in the amount of carbohydrates in each and in the sweetness which is more intense in the Chinese chestnuts.

Chestnuts are one of the lowest calorie nuts and are rich in vitamins B1 (good for the nervous system) and B6 (helps maintain normal brain function). They are a good source of mineral – especially potassium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous – and for that reason are ideal for nursing mothers and people who are anemic. They are also good for people who suffer from hipertensiĆ³n because they are low in sodium and rich in potassium – the latter improves kidney function which helps to eliminate toxins.

When it comes to cooking chesnuts, it is best to peel them and then boil them for half and hour. Another common way to prepare them is roasted in the oven or over coals. They can be used in souffles and cream sauces, as a garnish for turkey, and in the exquisite “marron glace”, a classic French desert.

In northwest Spain it is popular to prepare them in a thick syrup. There are a number of towns in Spain that host annual chestnuts festivals in late October or early November: There are a range of activities at these festivals, and a common one is a race via irrigation ditches that wind through hundred-year-old chesnuts groves. Some of the trees have trunks measuring more than eight meters in circumference. The race takes place on a Saturday and the same night there is a party where chestnuts are roasted for everyone.

Finally, a few tips to keep in mind when buying chestnuts: the nuts should feel heavy for their size, they should be very firm, and their shells should be shiny. And in order to preserve them longer, keep them in a cool, dry place.

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