Gnocchi, soups and broths, but also desserts such as pancakes and castagnaccio: le chestnuts can be found in the traditional dishes of all our regional cuisines. This gift of the forest autumnalin fact, it represented for a long time and until the 1950s the survival food for the mountain people, who even made it a dark and compact bread, mixing the flour with that of wheat and rye.
A bit of history
But the history of chestnuts hangs in the balance between food rustic And gastronomy refined, for their extraordinary versatility: whole, the largest and most pulpy fruits are glazed to become greedy marrons glacés or stuff roasts of red and white meats; boiled and reduced to puree, they become the basis for savory pies or for sweets delights like the classic Mont Blanc.
A record with ancient roots
The chestnut has lived in our woods since time immemorial. From the Venetian Pre-Alps, down along the entire Apennines to the slopes of the Sila, in Calabria, thebread tree, as it was defined by Pascoli, it has found an ideal habitat and thrives almost everywhere. Mostly in Campania, followed by Calabria, Lazio, Piedmont And Tuscany. Despite the drastic decrease in crops compared to the beginning of the century, still today Italy is the first chestnut producer in Europe and the third in the world. The primacy does not concern only the quantity: in our country hundreds of varieties of chestnuts survive, of which 12 are recognized excellences at European level. They received the mark Dop there Vallerano chestnut (grown in the Viterbo area, in Lazio), with white and crunchy pulp; the Caprese Michelangelo brown, Tuscan, with ivory-colored pulp and aroma of almond and vanilla; the Brown of San Zeno, harvested in Veneto, which due to its softness and sweet taste is used for the "marronata", jam with sugar or honey.
The Veneto it also counts two fruits Igp (the Marrone di Combai, with floury and sugary pasta, and the Marrone di Monfenera), tied with the Piedmont (which boasts the Chestnut of Cuneo and the Marrone of Val di Susa, ideal for making marrons glacés) and with Tuscany. A region that, in addition to the large chestnut of Monte Amiata and the crunchy Marrone del Mugello, also boasts two PDO chestnut flours, velvety and fragrant, produced in Lunigiana and in Garfagnana.
There Campania, which was also awarded two Igp (the Chestnut of Montella, round and with a thin skin, and the Marrone di Roccadaspide, sweet and crunchy) is among the areas with the highest chestnut vocation: alone, in fact, it represents 50 percent of the entire national chestnut production .
Extra-large sized browns
Commonly, large chestnuts are called 'marroni'. In many cases it is true: for the Marrone di Combai IGP, the production disciplinary establishes that the fruits for each hedgehog must not exceed three. However, the size they are a variable feature, even within the same variety. For example, the Chestnut of Monte Amiata is large in size (80 fruits are enough for one kg), while for the Marrone di San Zeno Dop the disciplinary ranges from 50 to 120 fruits per kg.
So, what are the criteria for distinguishing chestnuts from chestnuts?
In principle, but with several exceptions, i first courses they have oval shape, peel striated And subtle, with the film peeling off very easily. Features that make them ideal in preparations roast and in all recipes that require whole pulpy and perfect fruits. They are also required for industrial processing, which uses them to make marrons glacés, candied fruit and canned with rum or under grappa. The chestnutsinstead, they generally have form rounded, peel thick and the inner film that penetrates the seed, which makes the peeling operation more laborious. Once peeled and boiled (in water or milk, depending on the recipe), they are used for soups, creams, fillings, jams. In addition to fresh consumption, they are intended for the production of dried chestnuts and chestnut flour.