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Food Sunday: Chestnuts

Chestnuts ready to be gathered.

(Picture courtesy of ??SFB579’s photostream at

Chestnuts are traditionally associated with the Christmas holiday, and I understand they are roasted at street oven carts in many places.   The tree itself is lovely, and planted here from nuts brought over from Great Britain.
Of course, one of the best known songs for the season begins “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”,  and is called “The Christmas Song.”
The chestnut itself is a find, full of nutrition without the calories, and once was a common stuffing for whatever bird was on the table for the celebration of choice.
I think I’ve never actually had a chestnut, so am providing this recipe for your roasting adventure.

Choose chestnuts that are shiny, clean and heavy for their size.

Run a damp cloth over the shells.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

And this is essential: Be sure to cut an X into the rounded side of the shell with a very sharp paring knife, which will allow the steam to escape during cooking. (One friend forgot this step and an exploding chestnut put a very large crack in her oven-door window!)

Place chestnuts on a cookie sheet, X side up and place in oven. When the shell peels back and the meat is a caramel color, they’re done. They should be moist, easy to peel and pliant. We have found that this can take up to 30 minutes or so. (If undercooked, they will be raw and hard; if overcooked, they will be dry, hard and difficult to peel — so we begin checking after about 10 minutes.)

Be careful, as chestnuts will be extremely hot out of the oven.

The oldest tree at Kew Gardens, in London, happens to be a sweet chestnut tree.   Exploring the royal botanical gardens this past October, I had the privilege of taking its picture, found below.   Wishes go out for its long life, this holiday season.

Kew's oldest, Sweet Chestnut tree

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.