The European chestnut [Castanea sativa] has a rich history of being part of our cuisine. For instance, chestnuts are a flavorful addition to our holiday celebrations. In fact, one of the most famous holiday songs, “The Christmas Song” celebrates the chestnut as a warm remembrance of Christmases long past. If you’re new to this meaty delectable and delicious nut, fear not as we’ve all the information you’ll ever need when it comes to buying chestnuts for yourself and your good family.
For centuries the humble chestnut has helped fill the bellies of people in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Chestnuts are actually considered by some as both a nut and fruit, not a true seed like almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, or cashews. The chestnut offers you a gentle, soft, and somewhat sweet texture which is far from the more solid and crunchy nut. When it comes to preparation, this versatile delicacy can be eaten either raw or cooked. Besides flavor, reasons to buy chestnuts include:
- Improved digestion
- Heart healthy
- Improved bone health
- Improved brain function
When it comes to cooking, chestnuts can be fried, steamed, boiled, broiled, or roasted. Recipe books are filled with tantalizing chestnut dishes which include everything from main courses, to side dishes and desserts. During holidays, chestnuts are generally used as an ingredient in stuffing, savory desserts, or as side dishes.
Crucial Tips on How to Buy Chestnuts
During this time of inflated prices, it’s critical to spend your dollar on only the best items, and that includes chestnuts. In order to do so, you need to know how to choose the absolute best chestnuts available. When shopping, you’ll be able to recognize chestnuts by their shape. Chestnuts have one flat side and one rounded side.
When buying chestnuts, look for those with a dark, umber brown color, and always select those which have a glossy or shiny shell. Furthermore, good-quality chestnuts should feel firm when pressed between your thumb and forefinger. Avoid any chestnuts that feel soft and squishy when pressed. Also, steer clear of chestnuts that appear to have a fuzzy appearance. Fuzz on chestnuts is an indication they are moldy and way past their purchase date.
Finally, when selecting chestnuts, it’s vital to consider prep time. In other words, don’t buy chestnuts ahead of time, in hopes that they’ll be in good shape when it comes to preparing them. For you see, fresh chestnuts don’t hold up very well, lasting only a few days after purchase. As such, for the best results you’ll need to plan your shopping trip close to the day, you’ll be cooking the meal.
Where Can I Buy Chestnuts?
Chestnuts can be found at your local supermarket, farmers market, and Italian markets as well as online. If you are serious about your holiday cooking and want the freshest chestnuts available, visit the Chestnut Growers of America’s webpage. Here, you’ll find a list of chestnut farmers in your area. Most sell directly to those who visit the farms as well as online, and there’s no better way to get the freshest chestnuts unless you grow them yourself.
One final tip: When grocery shopping for chestnuts, don’t confuse chestnuts with water chestnuts. While each is called a ‘chestnut’, they are not the same. Also, avoid buying chestnuts from someone who simply foraged for them. Always buy them from a supermarket, chestnut grower, or verified online market. Why? Well, there’s always the off chance that a forager accidentally picked horse chestnuts, and horse chestnuts are toxic if eaten.
Finally, what happens if you get a taste for chestnuts when they are out of season? Well, know that you can buy chestnuts all year round at places like Amazon and Walmart! Here, you can find packaged, ready to eat chestnuts for sale. Whether they are blanched, organic or roasted, online shops such as Walmart and Amazon will definitely have a solid, year-long supply.
Where Do Chestnuts Originate?
Even though we are concentrating on the European chestnut, know that there are several varieties of chestnuts, all in the family Castanea. Chestnuts grow on deciduous trees. These trees can be found on the North American continent, Asia, and Europe. The majority of fresh chestnuts we enjoy in America are imported from Italy, China, Korea, and Turkey.
Where Can I Find Chestnuts in the Store?
Fresh chestnuts are a seasonal food. This means that you’ll usually find them in the fall and winter seasons, from September to December. Fresh chestnuts will be located in the produce section of your local grocery store and can usually be found in the same section where they sell the other fresh nuts. Packaged chestnuts and chestnut purees are generally found online. However, if your store does carry chestnut puree, it will usually be located in the baking section, whereas packaged chestnuts will often be in the chips and nuts snack aisle.
Chestnuts: A Moderately Priced Delicacy
According to MoneyInc.com, the chestnut is listed at number 4 in their list of the 10 most expensive nuts. Here, they state that the average price of one pound of chestnuts is $10.99. Prices will vary depending on whether or not the chestnuts are organic, fresh, canned, or packaged. The reason chestnuts are so expensive is that most are imported. Sadly, due to the chestnut blight of 1904, America’s chestnut tree population in America was almost wiped out. Today only about 1 percent of the chestnuts that people consume are grown in America.
Chestnuts are an ancient delicacy, that we still enjoy today. We use the nutritious chestnut in our holiday cuisine as well as for our snacking pleasure. Since chestnuts don’t hold their freshness in storage, it’s imperative to purchase them close to the day you’ll prepare the dish. With regards to freshness, the absolute freshest chestnuts can be purchased directly from chestnut growers, with your second choice being the local market. To satiate your year-round cravings, you can purchase roasted chestnuts online at sites like Walmart and Amazon.
Look for chestnuts that are firm and heavy for their size, with shiny, dark brown shells that are free from cracks or holes. Avoid chestnuts that rattle when shaken or have moldy or shriveled shells.