Chestnut, flavor and healthy energy

The sweet and tasty chestnut is one of the gifts that autumn brings. In addition to abundant energy, it provides nutrients that contribute to strengthening health and that invite you to give it more prominence at the table during its natural season.

There are three large species of chestnut trees: European, Chinese and American. More than a hundred subspecies grow in our country. They should never be confused with the horse chestnut. (Aesculus hippocastanum), toxic due to its aesculin content, but with various medicinal uses.

Humble but nutritious sustenance

The chestnut, due to its nutritional composition, is closer to cereals. When consumed fresh, half its weight is water. Of the other half, around 40% are carbohydrates, mostly (85%) slowly assimilated complex starches. This makes it a healthy source of energy and makes it interesting in weight control diets, since having a longer-lasting satiating effect helps avoid snacking between meals. And actually its caloric intake (196 kcal) is only a third of that of nuts and half of that of cereals. It also contains inulin, a fiber with a prebiotic effect.

The chestnut does not stand out for the quantity of proteins but its quality is excellent, with a balanced protein profile. essential amino acids. And something similar happens with its fats, which are scarce but mostly mono- and polyunsaturated and, therefore, desirable.

What chestnuts stand out for is their contribution of vitamins, including the antioxidant vitamin C and several of group B. They also provide some vitamin K. As for minerals, their contribution of manganese, as well as copper and potassium, stands out. .

Traditional Chinese medicine says that they have a sweet taste, a warm nature, and that they nourish the stomach and strengthen the spleen and kidneys.

In any case, it is a food that, taken in moderation, is alkalizing, astringent, antioxidant, galactogenic (favors the production of breast milk), muscle toning and can contribute to the good health of the digestive, cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Improve your digestion

It is true that chestnuts have a reputation for producing gas and being somewhat indigestible for some people. In any case, they should not be eaten very green or fresh, just fallen from the tree, since at that time they are richer in tannins. It is better to leave them for a few days so that they are more digestible and they should be peeled well.

So that they are not heavy, it is advisable to cook them with anise, fennel seeds, turmeric or fresh ginger, and not drink too much water with them. Cooking them with a lot of fat, especially animal fat, should also be avoided. This advice is not usually observed in traditional gastronomy, which often associates it with pork and poultry products, in the form of filling.

Exquisiteness on the table

Today you can find fresh chestnuts, cooked naturally and peeled in cans, vacuum-packed and, although less common, also frozen. And products made with them such as jam, puree, poultry stuffing and, of course, the brown glacé: candied chestnuts in syrup and egg white. Also surviving, although they are increasingly rare to find, are dried chestnuts, called pilongas, mayucas or cascajos, which must be soaked before using them. They were the traditional way to preserve them all winter.

To pair them, more than with a dried fruit, we have to think that they can replace or accompany vegetables such as potatoes or legumes.

How to roast chestnut well

Our typical way of eating them is roasted on the coals or in the oven, for which an incision must be made on the convex side. They are then roasted for 20 to 40 minutes at 180ºC depending on how dry they are and how big they are. If they are made on the grill or in a pan, they must be moved often so that they do not burn. They are very juicy if they are left to soak for a quarter of an hour.