The chestnut is less popular in America than in Europe, where it is part of the traditional food of several regions. In addition to a varied content of vitamins and minerals, its refined flavor makes it possible to enhance both a main dish and a dessert.
Characteristics of the chestnut:
- Rich in carbohydrates;
- Source of fiber;
- Source of group B vitamins;
- Source of copper and manganese;
- Cholesterol lowering.
What is the chestnut?
Chestnut identity card
- Type: Fruit
- Family: Fagaceae;
- Origin: Europe;
- Brown color ;
- Flavor: Sweet.
Characteristics of the chestnut
When harvested, the chestnut is an oval fruit of about four centimeters, surrounded by a thick prickly skin called “bug”.
Differences with nearby foods
We often confuse the chestnut with the chestnut.
The chestnut bug hosts a single fruit while that of the chestnut contains several.
Word from the nutritionist
The chestnut is a caloric food, so it should be eaten in moderation. One serving corresponds to approximately 100g of chestnut.
For 100g of chestnut:
|Vitamin B1||0.05 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.07 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.22 mg|
|Vitamin B9||58 µg|
12 benefits of chestnuts: why eat them?
- Several epidemiological and clinical studies associate regular consumption of nuts and oil seeds with various health benefits such as a cholesterol-lowering effect, a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Other studies have observed a decrease of the risk of gallstones in men, and a decreased risk of gallbladder removal and colon cancer in women. The amount of shelled and oil seeds related to these benefits is most of the time approximately five ounce (30 g) servings per week.
- Raw chestnuts contain at least twice as many carbohydrates as most other nuts and oilseeds (e.g. walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds). The chestnut carbohydrates are mainly composed of starch; it is also used to produce gluten-free flour. This flour can therefore be used in various products which can be safely consumed by people with celiac disease. In addition, the chestnut contains at least eight times less lipids than the majority of shelled and oleaginous fruits.
- More than 57% of the raw chestnut starch appears to be resistant starch: this type of starch can resist digestion and end up in the colon. The proportion of resistant starch would decrease to around 17% once the chestnut is roasted. Although more studies are needed to better understand the effects of resistant starch in humans, the scientific literature believes that it could lead to some intestinal health benefits, such as increased stool volume and decrease in the concentration of bile acids. Also, the fact that this starch cannot be absorbed quickly by the body could be beneficial for the prevention of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.
- Roasted European chestnut is a good source of manganese while raw and shelled European chestnut is a source. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.
- The European chestnut is a good source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.
- The roasted European chestnut is a source of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH. Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.
- The raw and shelled European chestnut is a source of iron for men, the needs of men and women being different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.
- The European chestnut is a source of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we eat. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.
- The roasted European chestnut is a source of vitamin B2 for women, the needs of men and women being different. Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.
- The European chestnut is a source of vitamin B6. Also called pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis (manufacture) of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells and in the modulation of hormone receptors.
- The European chestnut is a source of folate. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.
- The European chestnut is a source of vitamin C. The role that vitamin C plays in the body goes beyond its antioxidant properties; it also contributes to the health of bones, cartilage, teeth and gums. In addition, it protects against infections, promotes the absorption of iron from plants and accelerates healing.
Choosing the right chestnut
The chestnut should be very shiny and heavy in the hand. Make sure, by touching it, that the bark is not peeled from the flesh. Avoid moldy fruit.
Canned chestnuts are quite easy to find, as well as mash. On the other hand, flour is rarer; look for delicatessens.
The different varieties
The different forms and / or varieties of the food
In the refrigerator: a few days in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. After this time, it may rot. It is important not to leave it in the heat. She also fears humidity.
In the freezer: cook and peel before freezing.
Preparation of the chestnut
How to cook it? How to match it?
In addition to its hard bark, the chestnut has a thin inner skin that must be removed because it is bitter. To do this, incise the fruit on its wide side with a sharp knife, starting from the clear base. Then immerse it for three minutes in boiling water. A spoonful of oil can be added to the water to soften the peel and make it easier to peel. Drain, rinse with cold water and squeeze the chestnut between two fingers to get rid of its two envelopes.
An incision should also be made in the bark before roasting in the oven to prevent the chestnut from bursting when heated.
Chestnut flour should always be sieved. It is most often used in mixture with wheat flour, in proportions varying from a quarter to a half.
Whole fruit (fresh or canned)
- Mashed potatoes: sauté minced onion and celery in oil or butter, add peeled chestnuts and broth (about a kilo of chestnuts per liter of broth) as well as thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for about an hour or until the chestnuts have absorbed most of the broth. Strain in a blender and serve with turkey or other poultry.
- Stuff a fish with a mixture of cooked and chopped chestnuts, minced shallots and herbs (dill, parsley, etc.). Poach the fish in a court-bouillon or put it in the oven.
- Or stuff a poultry with chopped chestnuts mixed with a beaten egg, bread crumbs and herbs (parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary).
- Stuffed squash: remove a cap from the squash, then the seeds and filaments. Take part of the flesh, chop it and mix it with mushroom slices, finely chopped chestnuts, garlic, herbs, nutmeg. Brown the preparation for a few minutes in olive oil, then stuff the squash. Place for about an hour in an oven set to 200 ° C (390 ° F). Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking, sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese and brown.
- Pot of new vegetables and chestnuts: for this pot, use canned chestnuts. Put them in a saucepan with young vegetables: carrots, new potatoes, snow beans, lettuce hearts, pickling onions. Add a few spoonfuls of olive oil and water, salt, pepper, cover and cook for half an hour over low heat.
- Cream of chestnuts and vegetables: cook chestnuts in broth with potatoes, leek, turnip, carrot and green beans until all the vegetables are tender (about 90 minutes). Add herbs, then pass to the mixer. This recipe can be varied endlessly by replacing one or the other vegetable with mushrooms, fennel or crushed tomatoes, adding chili or yogurt, spicing oriental style, etc.
- Dhal: cook the chestnuts with lentils and Indian spices (turmeric, curry, cumin, chilli). Puree and add sour cream or yogurt.
- Salads: serve the chestnuts with fresh fruit and dried fruit; with cherry tomatoes, fresh figs and pine nuts, on a bed of lettuce; with red cabbage and apples; with apples, beets, arugula or watercress and grated celeriac.
- Chicken with tomatoes and chestnuts: sauté garlic and shallots, add a few spoonfuls of broth, add peeled and seeded tomatoes, thyme and parsley and bring to a boil. Brown chicken pieces in oil and add to tomato sauce. Simmer for half an hour, then add cooked chestnuts, cover and cook for five more minutes. Serve with rice.
- Add in soups, purees, stews, mousses, soufflés, breads, cakes, muffins, etc.
- Galette: mix chestnut flour with water, season with herbs or spices of your choice and spread the preparation in an oiled or buttered pie pan (it should be about 2 cm thick). Bake 45 minutes in an oven set at 180 ° C (355 ° F).
- Pancakes: beat eggs and add chestnut flour to them, then stir in milk. Let stand at least one hour. Cook the pancakes and stuff them with mushrooms in oil and grated cheese, or cooked apples or pears.
- Dumplings: mix whole wheat flour and chestnut flour (in equal parts) with beaten eggs, salt and milk or water, so as to obtain a fairly thick dough. Leave to stand for half an hour, then make dumplings which will be thrown into boiling salted water. Cook for a few minutes, until the dumplings rise to the surface. Drain and brown them in a little oil or butter. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and top with a tomato sauce or white sauce.
- In some parts of Italy as well as in Corsica, chestnut flour replaces corn in polenta.
Allergy to “nuts” (shelled and oil seeds)
In the list of the main allergens, there are “nuts”, which designate a set of shelled and oleaginous fruits which can include chestnuts. It is also recommended that people with allergies to peanuts refrain from consuming all shelled and oil seeds, since these foods have a high allergenic potential and they are often handled and distributed by companies specializing in peanuts. Symptoms of shellfish and oilseed allergy can be severe and can even lead to anaphylactic shock.
Some people may be recommended to adopt a restricted diet of oxalates in order to prevent recurrences of kidney or urinary stones (also called urinary stones). Oxalates are compounds found naturally in several foods, including shelled and oil seeds. It is therefore preferable that these people avoid consuming it.
History of the chestnut
The term “chestnut”, which appeared in the French language in the 12th century, derives from the Latin castanea.
Chestnut trees, of which there are several species, are native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, more precisely northeast and southwest Asia, southeast Europe and eastern North America. The European chestnut (C. sativa) has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in the Mediterranean basin, but its fruits were harvested in the wild long before, since it was established there millions of years ago.
In France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, the chestnut has been the staple food, even exclusive, of whole populations, particularly in mountainous regions, where cereals did not grow. This was still the case in the 19th century, in the mountains of Tuscany where, six months a year, we practically consumed only this fruit, at the rate of one or two kilograms per person, per day. Even in the twentieth century, Corsicans ate large quantities of what was known as “the wooden bread”, made from chestnut flour. In the heart of Corsica, a true civilization of the chestnut tree was born, insofar as the life of the village was centered on this tree, from its plantation to the transformation of the fruits. Furthermore, for millennia, lower quality chestnuts were given to farm animals for fattening. The pigs’ flesh thus fed was said to be delicious.
However, in recent centuries, the chestnut has experienced a gradual decline, which is explained by various causes: wars, deadly winters, transition from a subsistence economy to a market economy, ink disease (different fungal disease of the one who killed the American trees), etc. Even in the “chestnut” regions, the trees are left to their own devices and the traditions are lost, although in some regions, we have witnessed a renewed interest in recent years, especially in the French Cévennes, where demand AOC for the local chestnut is in progress.
On a commercial scale, three species of chestnut are grown, one of which is mainly present in China, the second in Europe and the third in Japan. China, Korea, Italy, Turkey, Japan and Spain are the main producing countries.
Ecology and environment
From 1900 to 1940, almost all of the American chestnut trees – we are talking about nearly four billion trees – were destroyed by the chestnut canker, a fungal disease accidentally imported from Asia and which attacks the bark of the tree. This chestnut was found throughout the Appalachian forest, which extends from southern Ontario to Florida. It was not uncommon to find trees 2 meters in diameter and 30 meters in height. This deciduous tree played an essential role in the ecology of the Appalachians, providing abundant food for the local fauna and attracting a myriad of pollinating insects at the time of flowering. It was also at the heart of the rural economy, its fruits serving as food for both farm animals and humans, while its wood had many uses:
For several years, the United States Department of Agriculture had worked to select varieties resistant to the disease, but its efforts were in vain and it finally abandoned its research. In the 1980s, a group of researchers still founded the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF), with the aim of restoring this tree to its place in the Appalachian ecosystem. Researchers are carrying out crossbreeding work between the Chinese species and the American species with the aim of producing hybrids possessing the resistance of the first to the disease and the size of the second (the Chinese species is much smaller than the American species).
The challenge is great, all the more so since, by the researchers’ own admission, a project of this nature will take at least 50 years before producing convincing results. The organization operates with private funds, government grants and the help of a multitude of volunteers who identify and pollinate trees that have resisted the disease, harvest their fruits and plant them for selection. . Even children participate in ecology lessons centered on the chestnut. In 2002, the ACF also received the Slow Food award for the protection of biodiversity.