The sweet chestnut – Castanea sativa in Latin – not only tastes great, the nut is also healthy.
As a basic food, sweet chestnuts give us the opportunity to rebalance our often over-acidified body. So you can eat them with a clear conscience. Here in South Tyrol the sweet chestnut is mainly served at the Törggelen in autumn. It is usually the conclusion of an extensive and often hearty meal, but is also highly recommended as a snack in between.
At the Törggelen, the sweet chestnuts are roasted and sometimes served with butter. Also the sweet chestnut puree combined with ice cream or cream is a delicacy but very substantial.
Since ancient times, the chestnut tree has been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean area and in the neighbouring Nordic countries. There are several hundred different species, the trees can reach a height of 30 metres. The fruits mature in tight, leathery and spiky shells. First these little hedgehogs are green, at the time of maturity the pricking dress turns yellow and brown. There are one to two, sometimes even three sweet chestnuts in each shell. They are flattened at the sides, have brush-like hair at their tip, and a shiny red-brown colour. Under the shell, there is a second protective skin that detaches easily from the fruit after roasting.
At the end of September or beginning of October, the sweet chestnuts are ripe and can be picked up from the ground without their prickly shell. In the area along the South Tyrolean Wine Road there are some farmers, who also cultivate sweet chestnuts. Otherwise, many of the surrounding forests are filled with wild-growing sweet chestnut trees. Those who know the special spots, return with a bag full of sweet chestnuts already after a little walk. The sweet chestnuts are not related to the horse chestnuts. Oh yes: in the villages from Nalles to Salorno the sweet chestnuts are called "Köschtn" or "Keschtn" in dialect.