Thanks to the popular Christmas tune about roasting them “on an open fire with Jack Frost nipping at your nose” , chestnuts are most associated with the winter holiday season. In reality, however, they are a healthy, delicious treat that can be enjoyed year-round.
Sometimes referred to as the “grain that grows on a tree”, chestnuts are lower in fat (and protein) and higher in carbohydrates than other nuts. An ounce of chestnuts contains only .3g fat, 1.2g protein (the lowest of all nuts) and 14.4 g carbohydrates. There are only 68 calories in 1 oz of chestnuts (about 3 nuts) compared with 204 calories in an ounce of macadamia nuts or 161 calories in an ounce of peanuts. Chestnuts also contain a decent amount of Vitamin C and folate and like all nuts they have zero cholesterol. They are also low on the glycemic index and thus are an excellent choice for diabetics.
Originating from southern Europe, chestnuts can be eaten boiled or roasted, used as a fresh vegetable, mashed into a puree or ground into flour. They are excellent in soups, porridges, casseroles, stuffings, stews – even pastries.
Available fresh (in autumn), dried or canned, chestnuts should be slit before cooking otherwise they can explode with the heat. Dried chestnuts should be soaked for at least 1-2 hours and boiled for 45-60 minutes. Fresh nuts need boiling for 40 minutes before being peeled. Chestnuts are perishable and so should be refrigerated. Fresh chestnuts will keep up to two months if refrigerated in a ziplock bag.