November just starts, the weather is turning into autumn, making its way to the market stands with the bright orange of pumpkin, squashes, the deep red of juicy apples. Autumn, for a lot of people, is the leaves turning yellow, the smell of cinnamon apple pies, the sweet pumpkin soup. For someone who is hopelessly imaginative like me, autumn is the season to put on my favorite coat, wear a light scarf, takea leisure walk between the trees and, the same time picking chestnuts, and then roast and enjoy the sweet nutty flavour.
For study-abroaders like me, especially girls, chetsnut picking is one of the fun activities in autumn. It’s a chance to hang out with friends, to take photos with the romantic background of autumn leaves, and then leaving with a bag full of delicious chestnuts When I first got intereted in chestnut picking, I found it strange that people have to go so far for chestnuts, while I saw a lot of what I thought to be chestnuts lying around on the streets, those like the ones in this photo.
Source: Reader’s digest
I read a bit online and found that those are called horse chestnuts, usually only used for decoration and are inedible becaus ethey are poisonous (fortunately I didn’t pick any and try to eat them ). I have friends who also made the same mistake as I did, and even Matthias thought the same thing before, so this post, beside sharing how to roast chestnut in an oven, I will also share how to distinguish horse chestnuts and sweet chestnuts, as well as chestnut picking spots that I know near Paris.
Bài viết tiếng Việt: Nhặt & nướng hạt dẻ
A. Distinguish Sweet chestnuts and Horse chestnuts
At the first glance sweet chestnuts and horse chestnuts look very much alike, but at a closer look you can see a lot of differences. The first is the pod of the nuts. The pod of the sweet chestnuts has many spiky thorns like that of a hedgehog, the pod of horse chestnuts only has a few pointy warts.
Source: Farm in my pocket
The second difference is the shape of the nuts. Sweet chestnuts have a pointy end usually with a tassel attached to it. Horse chestnuts are round all over.
Source: The Columbian blogs
Lastly is the touch feeling of the nuts. Sweet chetsnuts have a hard but thin and light shell, while horse chestnuts have a shell that feels very hard and thick.
B. Chestnut picking spots
So far these are the spots I know near Paris :
- Montmorency forest (Forêt de Montmorency)
This place is introduced by students on the Vietnamese student association in, I have never been there though. You can use train line H to Moiselles and take a 30-minute walk there.
- Meudon forest (Forêt de Meudon)
For this spot if you have a car or know someone who drives one it would be very easy to get to, if not to can take train line N to Chaville Rive Gauche and take a 15-20-minute walk there. This forest is very big, with a lot of open spaces so it would be nice to have a picnic at the same time.
- Rames woods (Bois des Rames)
Personally I fid this spot the most convinient for those who use public transportation. Take RER line B to Le Guichet, take sortie 2 and continue on Verdun road (Rue de Verdun) for 10 minutes and you will find a small woods following the road on the right hand side. This one is suitablefor those who don’t want to go too far and only want to spend 1-2 hour picking chestnuts.
C. Some notes on chestnut picking
As you can see most chestnut picking spots are in the forest, so the obvious thing to notice is to wear long jeans and boots to avoid scratches from thorny trees or stepping on chetsnut pods.
Chestnut picking season is autumn, the weather is usually not that cold, but when you go into the forest there’s not much sunlight that can pass through the trees so you will feel colder than usual. An extra coat in your backpack would be a good idea.
You will usually see a lot of nuts out of their pods when picking chetsnuts, however there are occasions when the nuts are still inside the pod like in this photo.
As chestnut pods have sharp thorns, you should bring a pair of thick gloves if you can to open the pods. You can actually open the pod with your bare hands if you’re careful, but of course i twill be faster with gloves.
D. Roasting chestnuts in an oven
There are a lot of ways to cook chestnuts: roast on an open fire, boil, fry, etc. My favorite way is to parboil and then finish the oven, the cooked chestnuts are really fragrant and tander, not too dry and most of all it’s really easy to peel them. If you’ve ever cooked chestnuts before you’d know how hard it is to peel them, especially the brown husk. Of course it also depends on the freshness of the chestnuts, but this method of cooking yielded the easiest to peel chestnuts out of all the methods I’ve tried.
1. First rinse the chestnuts, then use a knife (best a serrated one) and make an incision across the nut, make sure the incision pass the husk.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 230°C. Put all the chestnuts in a saucepan, add water to cover the nuts and heat on medium high heat until the water starts to bubble, drain and pass the chetsnuts to a baking tray.
3. Roast the chestnuts in the oven for 10-15 minutes, depends on the size of the nuts, until the sweet smell penetrates the kitchen and the shells open, revealing the golden nut inside.
4. Pour all the nuts into a heat-proof bowl, use a thick towel to cover for 10 minutes. This step is to cool down the chestnuts, and also to keep the shells soft and easy to peel.
All that’s left to do if to open the chestnut along the cut and enjoy the sweet nutty inside
This post is part of Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event to encourage bloggers to try new food related things.
This month’s host is Alicia from Alicia’s Bits n Bobs.