10.16.2016

In the Country Collecting Chestnuts... botanic info and recipts

Today it was Worlds' day in procycling so I couldn't spend it all hiking and in spite the weather was quite good I decided to go collecting chestnut. 
I didn't have to think about 'where': my country home, in the hills near Florence, includes a good stretch of chectnuts' wood and there is a tree just out the door usually so generous that it's enough to fill a big basket of fruits.
I was feeling sorry because of the lost chance of an excursion... the Pratomagno was rising from the white clouds high in the all blue sky... and on Monte Cimone it was sunny for sure. Still I was eager to watch at least the end of the race in Doha.
My place is always beautiful. In Autumn the wet grass is covered in cyclamens and the gree of the forest cheers me up.
My son and I collected a tons of chestnuts, not all though. Tehey were too many!
Once at home I went looking on the wikipedia for some information about this fruit I'm so used to but ignorant of. That's what I found out!
"The chestnut group is a genus (Castanea) of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the beech family Fagaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The name also refers to the edible nuts they produce.
Chestnuts belong to the family Fagaceae, which also includes oaks and beeches. The four main species are commonly known as European, Chinese, Japanese, and American chestnuts, some species called chinkapin or chinquapin.
European species sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) is the only European species of chestnut, though it was successfully introduced to the Himalayas and other temperate parts of Asia. 
Chestnuts should not be confused with horse chestnuts (genus Aesculus), which are not related to Castanea and are named for producing nuts of similar appearance, but which are mildly poisonous to humans.
The name "chestnut" is derived from an earlier English term "chesten nut", which descends from the Old French word chastain (Modern French, châtaigne).
The trees' names are virtually identical in all the most ancient languages of Central Europe. The name Castanea is probably derived from the old name for the sweet chestnut, either in Latin or in Ancient Greek. Another possible source of the name is the town of Kastania in Thessaly, Greece; more probable, though, is that the town took its name from the most common tree growing around it. In the Mediterranean climate zone, chestnut trees are rarer in Greece because the chalky soil is not conducive to the tree's growth. Kastania is located on one of the relatively few sedimentary or siliceous outcrops. They grow so abundantly there, their presence would have determined the place's name. Still others take the name as coming from the Greek name of Sardis glans (Sardis acorn) – Sardis being the capital of Lydia, Asia Minor, from where the fruit had spread.
The chestnut's flowers follow the leaves, appearing in late spring or early summer. They are arranged in long catkins of two kinds, with both kinds being borne on every tree. The ripe pollen carries a heavy, sweet odour that some people find too sweet or unpleasant. Two or three flowers together form a four-lobed prickly calybium, which ultimately grows completely together to make the brown hull, or husk, covering the fruits.
Chestnut flowers are not self-compatible, so two trees are required for pollination. All Castanea species readily hybridize with each other.
The fruit is contained in a spiny (very sharp) cupule 5–11 cm in diameter, also called "bur" or "burr". The burrs are often paired or clustered on the branch and contain one to seven nuts according to the different species, varieties, and cultivars. Around the time the fruits reach maturity, the burrs turn yellow-brown and split open in two or four sections. They can remain on the tree longer than they hold the fruit, but more often achieve complete opening and release the fruits only after having fallen on the ground; opening is partly due to soil humidity.
The chestnut fruit has a pointed end with a small tuft at its tip and at the other end, a hilum – a pale brown attachment scar. In many varieties, the fruit is flattened on one or two sides. It has two skins. The first one is a hard, shiny, brown outer hull or husk, called the pericarpus. Underneath the pericarpus is another, thinner skin, called the pellicle or episperm. The pellicle closely adheres to the seed itself, following the grooves usually present at the surface of the fruit. These grooves are of variable sizes and depths according to the species and variety.
The sweet chestnut was introduced into Europe from Sardis, in Asia Minor; the fruit was then called the Sardian nut. It has been a staple food in southern Europe, Turkey, and southwestern and eastern Asia for millennia, largely replacing cereals where these would not grow well, if at all, in mountainous Mediterranean areas. Evidence of its cultivation by man is found since around 2000 BC. Alexander the Great and the Romans planted chestnut trees across Europe while on their various campaigns. A Greek army is said to have survived their retreat from Asia Minor in 401–399 BC thanks to their stores of chestnuts. Until the introduction of the potato, whole forest-dwelling communities which had scarce access to wheat flour relied on chestnuts as their main source of carbohydrates. 
American Indians were eating the American chestnut species long before European immigrants introduced their stock to America, and before the arrival of chestnut blight. Soon after that, though, the American chestnuts were nearly wiped out by chestnut blight. The discovery of the blight fungus on some Asian chestnut trees planted on Long Island, New York, was made public in 1904. Within 40 years, the nearly four billion-strong American chestnut population in North America was devastated. Due to disease, American chestnut wood almost disappeared from the market for decades. Today, they only survive as single trees. Efforts started in the 1930s are still ongoing to repopulate the country with these trees. 
The Australian gold rush of the 1850s and 1860s led to the first recorded plantings of European chestnut trees, brought in from Europe by the first settlers. Some of these are still standing today. Some trees in northern Victoria are around 120 years old and up to 60 m tall."
It's interesting, isn't it? Some of these things I didn't know, for exemple that chestnuts are so rare in America. In Italy they are very common. Eating chestnuts is a tradition in Autumn as well as cooking the 'castagnaccio', a typical chestnuts cake. There are basicly two ways to cook chestnuts: 'bruciate' and 'ballotte'. The first ones are put in a iron pan and 'burned' directly on the flame. The second ones instead are boiled in the water, normally together with fennel. The 'castagnaccio' instead is made by chestnut's flour and water: the dough is put in a flat baking tray with pine nuts and rosemary, then cooked in the owen.

No comments: