Few foods evoke the holidays more than chestnuts. Rarely seen at other times of the year, the chestnut revels in a fleeting moment of fame during the festive season. It bounces merrily through our Christmas carols, lies heaped in voluptuous displays at grocery stores, and slinks into stuffing, stews, and roulades. Yet far from being simply a frippery for the holiday table this nut has served many purposes from its use as a nutritious subsistence food to its roles in environmental stewardship
History & gastronomy
Originating in Asia Minor, the Spanish chestnut or castanea sativa is one of four primary chestnut species. It has been cultivated since at least 2000 BC. In the rocky mountains of the northern Mediterranean where grains are often hard to grow, this nut became an important source of carbohydrates for inhabitants, particularly before new world potatoes and corn reached the region. In fact the chestnut was so ubiquitous at times that people dreaded its inevitable appearance on their dinner plates.
Over the centuries the chestnut became embedded in the cuisines of Italy, France, and Spain among others. Each country adapted the chestnut to their own style of cooking, elevating beyond a humble staple: The French candy chestnuts in an elaborate process to create marrons glacés; the Italians turn it into flour and bake it into cakes and fritters; the Swiss puree the nut, mix it with sugar, kirsch, and butter to create the decadent dessert vemicelles, served with mounds of whipped cream. The Corsicans historically fermented chestnuts into beer, a tradition that has seen recent reivval on the island. And in Spain chestnuts can by found in plethora of dishes from luxurious castaña ice cream to savory plates of chorizo and chestnuts.
Matiz Organic Chestnuts come from the province of Galicia and are processed by Naiciña. A family-run company established in 1972, Naiciña sold fresh commodity chestnuts in the early days. Realizing the potential of value-added products, however, they soon entered the processing business and have since gone from strength to strength. Naiciña is dedicated to creating vital economic opportunity for farmers in Galicia, an area that has experienced decades of economic depression as young people trickle away to the cities for more lucrative and less arduous work.
Matiz Organic Chestnuts also have a positive ecological impact on the areas in which they are grown. Chestnut wood is incredibly dense and resists burning, a fact that explains why it can be found in the construction of many old houses in Galicia and other areas in which these trees are prolific. Demand for this nut leads to robust cultivation and preservation of these trees which in turn suppresses forest fires throughout the region.
Matiz Chestnuts aren’t just delicious, they are also packed with nutrition. They are higher in fiber than other nuts, and are rich in B vitamins, as well as the antioxidant manganese and bone-strengthening copper.
Why limit this wonderful nut to one season? Matiz Chestnuts are pre-cooked and vacuum-sealed making them a tasty and convenient addition to recipes at any time of year. Try sprinkling them over a salad, tossing them into an autumnal mushroom stew, or folding them into a bowl of brussels sprouts and bacon. Sweet or savory, pureed or roasted, chestnuts are one of those unsung culinary heroes we think deserve a lot more love.
For recipes with Matiz Organic Chestnuts, check out our recipes page.