Chestnut -

The fruit of a tree which is found in several varieties in different parts of the world. The name is derived from that of the town of Kastana in Asia Minor, which is also more or less closely preserved in several other languages - as the French "Châtaigne" and the German "Kastanien." The nuts grow inside a prickly husk, generally two in each husk, ripening with the first frost.

The American chestnut is usually smaller, but generally sweeter, than the Spanish. The Chincapin is a very small dwarf variety of the American. The Japanese averages larger than the American and in sweetness may be generally classed between it and the Spanish.

In this country, chestnuts are eaten in various forms - raw, boiled, steamed and roasted. They are very nutritious, the dried nuts containing an appreciable quantity of protein, fat and sugar to supplement the starch which is their chief component. The sugar content frequently reaches as high as 15%, the fermentation of the juice yielding a fine granular sugar. They should though be well roasted or boiled for a long time, as raw they are exceedingly indigestible. See also MARRONS.

In some mountainous districts of Europe where cereals cannot be raised, the chestnut takes the place of grain to a considerable extent. The chestnut harvest is the event of the year on the slopes of the Apennines and Pyrenees - the gathering of the nuts being for three or four weeks the leading occupation of every mountain village. When all the trees have been stripped, the fruit is spread on frames of lattice-work and dried by keeping a fire burning underneath. It is then steamed, roasted, made into pudding - the original "Polenta" - or ground into flour for bread making.

In some parts of Italy the peasants use a cake made of chestnuts as a substitute for potatoes.

Arround Chestnut in The Grocer's Encyclopedia

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