With the arrival of autumn, the evocative landscapes of Tuscany begin to change their appearance and color. From the saturated and bright green slowly turning into yellow and brown; the explosion of colors, flowers and fruits gradually leading to bare forests and thinned lawns. And then there is the first cold, that one that makes you appreciate the warm embrace of a good mattress.
However, in all this “withering” there is a fruit which becomes protagonist, the one that botanists classify as “achene”, in other words a dried fruit that contains only one seed: the chestnut.
The chestnut, the tree from which the fruit is derived, has very ancient origins: it appeared around 10 million years ago in Italy. People have been cultivating it for centuries, both to obtain timber and fruits. Italy today is the third world’s largest chestnut producer, with a production of nearly 80 tons per year. In Tuscany, the chestnut is a magical tree that appears austere, warm, tannic and resistant with an open-flame grain that has given rise to the elegant and long-lasting furnishing styles. In addition, chestnut is found in a variety of food productions including Garfagnana chestnut flour, Lunigiana honey, Marradi and Monte Amiata chestnuts. The latter is an IGP product with a sweet and delicious taste, whose procedural guidelines provides for cultivation and harvest at a height ranging from 300 and 1000 meters above the seal level.
If you wish to visit Tuscany in the autumn, then walking through the woods to pick up some chestnuts is a must: just bring a wicker basket with you and be ready to spend a few hours immersed in the nature.
Ballocciori and mondine
When at home – wash, cut and sink in water the chestnuts to prepare the “ballocciori” (or ballotte/ballotti), which should be left to boil for 30 minutes after adding a pinch of salt. Another simple recipe is called “mondine” or “roasted chestnuts“, reserved for those that have a fireplace. The chestnuts should be cooked on a small flame until the peel burns a little and can be detached with an ease.
The chestnut is a simple but noble fruit, rich in calories and fibers, it contains folic acid, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins PP and B2. Be careful though, due to the biodiversity in the woods, some chestnuts might contain an unexpected host. As the saying goes: the chestnut is beautiful on the outside, but on the inside it has the blemish!