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The sweet and tasty chestnut is one of the gifts that autumn brings. In addition to abundant energy, it provides nutrients that help strengthen health and invite you to give it more prominence at the table during its natural season.
There are three main 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 nourishing livelihood
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%) slow assimilation complex starches. This makes it a healthy source of energy and makes it interesting in weight control diets, as having a longer-lasting satiating effect helps to avoid snacking between meals. And actually its caloric intake (196 kcal) is only a third of that of nuts and half that of cereals. It also contains inulin, a fiber with a prebiotic effect.
The chestnut does not stand out for the amount of protein but its quality is excellent, with a balanced profile of essential amino acids. And something similar happens with their fats, which are scarce but mostly mono and polyunsaturated and, therefore, desirable.
In what the chestnuts stand out is in their contribution of vitamins, among them the antioxidant vitamin C and several of group B. They also provide some vitamin K. In terms of minerals, their contribution of manganese, as well as copper and potassium stand out. .
Traditional Chinese medicine says of them that they are sweet in taste, warm in 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 toner 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 gases and being somewhat indigestible to 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 must be peeled well.
So that they are not heavy, they should be cooked with anise, fennel seeds, turmeric or fresh ginger, and not drink too much water with them. Avoid cooking them with a lot of fat, especially animals. This advice is not usually observed in traditional gastronomy, which is often associated with pork and poultry products, in the form of filling.
Exquisiteness at the table
Today you can find fresh chestnuts, cooked naturally and peeled in cans, sous vide and, although less common, also frozen. And products made with them such as jam, puree, poultry stuffing and, of course, the glacé brown: candied chestnuts in syrup and egg white. Dried chestnuts, called pilongas, mayucas or gravel, also survive, although they are increasingly rare to find, which must be soaked before use. They were the traditional way to keep them all winter long.
To pair them, more than a dry fruit, we have to think that they can substitute or accompany vegetables such as potatoes or legumes.
How to grill them well
Our typical way of eating them is roasted on the embers or in the oven, for which an incision must be made on the convex face. Then they are roasted for 20 to 40 minutes at 180 ºC depending on how dry they are and how big they are. If they are cooked on the grill or in a pan, they must be stirred often so that they do not burn. They are very juicy if they are left to soak for a quarter of an hour before.