Chestnuts

General information on boiled chestnuts

Chestnuts can be eaten fresh, boiled or roasted, or dried and ground into flour .

In this article we will talk about boiled chestnuts, one of the most characteristic Italian dishes based on these starchy fruits. Typical of the autumn season, boiled chestnuts are eaten especially at the end of a meal, as a substitute for dessert , fresh fruit or cheese .

Biological and botanical notes on the chestnut

By “chestnuts” we mean the edible fruits produced by deciduous trees and shrubs, belonging to the Fagaceae family and the Castanea genus ; Some widespread species are: alnifolia , dentata , henryi , mollissima , ozarkensis , pumila , sativa andsegue .

Native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, in Italy the Castanea genus is an integral part of the spontaneous Apennine and lower Alpine scrub. Chestnut groves are also the subject of cultivation and reforestation, since the harvesting and sale of chestnuts represents an excellent source of income. Furthermore, chestnut groves offer the right environment for the development of some porcini mushrooms .

Today more than ever, these plants seem to suffer particularly from climatic changes, diseases and parasites . Also for this reason, local chestnuts have a significantly higher price than those imported from abroad.

Nutritional introduction on boiled chestnuts

The nutritional classification of boiled chestnuts is rather complicated. These are starchy fresh fruits with limited quantities of water; chestnuts are therefore different from:

  • Fresh watery fruits rich in fructose ( peaches , apples , cherries , strawberries , etc.)
  • Oily dried fruitswalnuts , hazelnuts , almonds , pistachios , etc.).

Instead, they have more affinity with potatoes , which on the other hand are tubers , and with cereals and legumes, which constitute the seeds of certain herbaceous plants. A non-Italian plant that produces similar fruits from a nutritional point of view is the breadfruit (genus Artocarpus ).
Boiled chestnuts are quite caloric foods , characterized by high levels of complex carbohydrates . Their use in the diet must be appropriately calculated, since they often represent an object of abuse, caloric excess and a reason for weight gain.

Nutritional properties

Nutritional considerations on chestnuts

Chestnuts are foods of plant origin which, from a botanical point of view, are considered real fruits. However, due to the ambiguity of their nutritional content, they are not classified in a precise fundamental food group.

They do not contain vitamin A but, according to the “USDA Nutrient Database”, they provide significant quantities of vitamin C (the data is not confirmed by the INRAN database). In any case, a large part of this vitamin is lost during cooking , an essential process since raw chestnuts are NOT edible.

The only common characteristics of chestnuts with fresh fruits are:

  • Potassium intake (good)
  • Fiber intake (high).

They are also different from dried fruitoil seeds ), which are instead characterized by a high fat content, with little water and carbohydrates .
Chestnuts, on the other hand, have more affinity with the III and IV fundamental groups (cereals, potatoes and legumes).

Below we will provide a small summary table that compares the caloric density and starch and water content of: raw semolina pasta ( dry), type 00 bread (cooked), potatoes (raw), beans (raw) and chestnuts (raw).

 

Raw semolina pasta (100 g) Type 00 bread
(100 g)
Chestnuts
(100 g)
Raw beans
(100 g)
Potatoes
(100 g)
Waterfall 10.8g/100g 29.0g/100g 55.8g/100g 60.8g/100g 78.5g/100g
Starch 68.1g/100g 59.1g/100g 25.3g/100g 19.5g/100g 15.9g/100g
Power 353 kcal /100 g 289 kcal /100 g 165 kcal/100 g 133 kcal /100 g 85 kcal /100 g

 

Note : keep in mind that raw semolina pasta and bread are totally and partially dehydrated foods . Fresh cereal (normally impossible to find) would contain a percentage of water and carbohydrates more similar to that of chestnuts and beans.

Nutritional properties of boiled chestnuts

Boiled chestnuts are foods with significant energy intake , which can be considered high or medium, depending on the context in which they are placed; in the context of fresh fruits it is very high, in the context of starchy foods it is instead average.

They contain a slightly higher percentage of water than raw ones, although it is not clear why; generally, the food water content increases if the product is in direct contact with the fluid during cooking. Chestnuts, on the other hand, are cooked with the skin which, in the short term, is insoluble and hermetic (therefore waterproof).

Calories are mainly provided by complex carbohydrates, followed by modest percentages of proteins and lipids . Carbohydrates tend to be complex, made up of starch ( even if around 8% is based on sucrose , glucose and fructose), and peptides of medium biological value ( limiting amino acid : tryptophan ); the fatty acids are likely unsaturated (the specific detail is not available).

The fiber content is very high, even higher than that of almost all fruitsvegetables , cereals, legumes , potatoes, etc. (only oil seeds bear comparison); Furthermore, among the fibres, certain “unavailable carbohydrates” also appear, especially stachyose and raffinose, responsible for the typical production of intestinal gas caused by the intake of chestnutsCholesterol , lactose and histamine are however absent.

The only allergen they contain is proteins but, statistically, chestnut allergy is quite rare.

Regarding mineral salts , the levels of potassium and copper appear quite significant ; as regards vitamins , however, the concentrations of the water-soluble B2 (riboflavin) and PP ( niacin ) are notable.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, according to an American source (USDA Nutrient Database) chestnuts are rich in vitamin C. On the other hand, to make them edible, it is essential to cook them for a long time. Being a heat-labile vitamin , ascorbic acid is particularly susceptible to heat and is degraded by up to 40% with cooking.
Used correctly, boiled chestnuts are suitable for most diets. Eaten without any care, however, they can be considered inappropriate in food therapy against: overweight , type 2 diabetes mellitus , hypertriglyceridemia and metabolic syndrome in general. They constitute a valid alternative to cereals containing gluten in case of celiac disease . Thanks to their notable fiber content, boiled chestnuts play a fairly important laxative role , as long as they are consumed with the right amount of water.

In people who do not have constipation problems , significant quantities of chestnuts can cause: increased bowel movements , meteorism and flatulence , abdominal distension and bloating.

Boiled chestnuts have no contraindication for vegetarian and vegan philosophies , nor for religious nutritional regimes such as kosher, Muslim and Hindu.
The average portion of boiled chestnuts, used at the end of a meal, is 60-80 g (approximately 100-130 kcal). If you want to insert them instead of a first course , the average portion is 200 g (about 330 kcal). Instead of bread, however, the average portion is 100 g (about 165 kcal).

 

Chestnuts Boiled chestnuts
Edible part 85% 88%
Waterfall 55.8g 63.3g
Proteins 2.9g 2.5g
Lipids TOT 1.7g 1.3g
Saturated fatty acids – g – g
Monounsaturated fatty acids – g – g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids – g – g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
TOT carbohydrates 36.7g 26.1g
Starch 25.3 g 16.9g
Soluble sugars 8.9g 7.5g
Dietary fibre 4.3g 5.4g
Soluble fiber 0.37g 0.59g
Insoluble fibre 4.33g 4.84g
Power 165.0 kcal 120.0 kcal
Sodium 9.0 mg – mg
Potassium 395.0 mg – mg
Iron 0.9 mg – mg
Soccer 30.0 mg – mg
Phosphorus 81.0 mg – mg
Magnesium – mg – mg
Zinc – mg – mg
Copper 0.4 mg – mg
Selenium – µg – µg
Thiamine 0.08mg – mg
Riboflavin 0.28 mg – mg
Niacin 1.11 mg – mg
Vitamin A 0.0 µg 0.0 µg
C vitamin 40.2 mg * – mg
Vitamin E – mg – mg

* This value is provided by the “USDA Nutrient Database”.

Preparation and Recipe

Boiled chestnuts recipe

The recipe for boiled chestnuts is simple. First of all, when purchasing, you need to check that the raw material is of good quality. During storage and preservation, chestnuts lose up to 1% of their weight in a day; to the touch, they must therefore be turgid and full, without empty spaces. Furthermore, you must check that there are no mold residues, insect holes or larvae.
Once the chestnuts have been chosen, they must be washed in running water; during this phase, if some float, they must be eliminated. They are then immersed in a pan with plenty of cold water, possibly flavored to taste.

Turn on the heat and, from the moment it boils, estimate a cooking time of 20′ for very small chestnuts, 30-40′ for medium ones and >40′ for large ones. Therefore, drain them and wrap them in a clean cloth and “squeeze” them (to facilitate the subsequent peeling phase). While still hot, peel them, depriving them of both the smooth external coating and the hairy internal coating. If the chestnuts do not peel properly, use a paring knife.

Note : chestnuts that do not peel properly are not properly stored, have not been cooked sufficiently or have not been wrapped in a cloth and wrung out.