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The Nut Romanticized In The Christmas Song Is Healthy, Versatile, And Easy To Prepare

Chestnuts aren’t just the stuff of seasonal songs describing the nuts being cooked over an open flame. Chestnuts, which have health benefits, are extremely versatile, and not terribly difficult to prepare, and are a wonderful winter ingredient.

Did you know chestnut trees used to thrive in the United States and that chestnuts were a key part of many diets? A blight killed off almost all the chestnut trees in America (Castanea dentata) right around the turn of the 20th century. Today, most chestnuts are imported, with China being the world’s top chestnut exporter. Chinese chestnuts come from a different species of tree (Castanea mollissima), but there probably aren’t too many people around anymore whose palate could distinguish between the two. Both the American and Chinese trees produce delicious nuts.

Chestnut Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Interestingly, chestnuts are the only low-fat nuts, as well as the only nuts that are a source of vitamin C, an antioxidant. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, decrease age-related vision loss, regulate diabetes, prevent irregular heartbeat, decrease stomach inflammation, and fight both high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Like many nuts, chestnuts also are high in dietary fiber.

Chestnut Versatility

Chestnuts are surprisingly versatile, used globally in stews, snacks, appetizers, and desserts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes. Used in many forms, they can be ground into flour, pureed, candied, or even deep fried. Sometimes you can even find street vendors in larger American and European cities offering up bags of roasted chestnuts for sale during the holiday season.

A few noteworthy recipes include chestnut stuffing with fennel, sprouts with chestnut and pancetta, and chocolate-chestnut cream bites.

How to Prepare Chestnuts

If you’d like to try preparing your own chestnuts, follow these simple directions for oven roasting:

  1. Preheat oven to 400º
  2. Cut slits in an “X” shape into the flat side of each chestnut.
  3. Place chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes.
  4. While still hot, carefully crush and peel off the skins.
  5. Enjoy a warm holiday treat!

Oh, and one other thing: If you decide you’d like to personally experience “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” know that it can be a bit challenging (and maybe even a little dangerous!). Be sure to make the small slits in the skin and leave just one chestnut intact. When it explodes—watch out for chestnut shrapnel—you’ll know the others are done.

The Pickled Beet can incorporate chestnuts and other healthy nuts into many recipes for our Miami clients who desire to increase their nut intake (be sure to read our previous blog post, “The Nutty Scoop”). We are happy to work with individuals, couples, and families to find meals that are delicious, healthy, and best fuel the body no matter what nutritional requirements might be part of the equation. Contact us for a free consultation.

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