The Fresh (and Dried) Chestnut Roundup: Selecting, Storing, Roasting and Peeling, with recipes

Chestnuts are one of my favorite foods. Every year when they reappear I greet them with almost unseemly gladness, so not surprisingly they have made a number of appearances here.

Fresh Chestnuts, Roasting Them, Peeling Them, Putting them In The Stuffing has tips, tools, and techniques.

Recipe posts include

brussels spouts with chestnuts

Leafy Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts,

a modern take on an old favorite, and

red cabbage and chestnuts

Stir Fried Red Cabbage with Dried Chestnuts

another new twist on an old standard and in that same post a very easy because you use dried chestnuts White Chocolate Chestnut Candy.

Speaking of which (candy, not easiness) there’s also a post with full instructions for

marrons glaces, glazed and sugared

Home Made Marrons Glacés

So although I love and adore them I figured we’d pretty much come to the end of what I had to say.  But then I mail-ordered some ‘Marroni’ directly from the grower

conventional and marroni chestnuts

Conventional chestnuts on the left, Marroni on the right.*

Wow, what a difference! The Marroni are not only sweeter than conventional chestnuts, they also have a lot more flavor. It’s sort of flowery, sort of fruity… and although they don’t taste like honey, their sweetness is to that of standard chestnuts as chestnut honey is to white sugar. There’s a hell of a lot more going on, including a lingering aftertaste faintly reminiscent of spice cookies.

The texture is different too, lighter and less gummy, yet still floury in that unique chestnutty way that you wouldn’t want to lose.

All that said, I don’t know how much of it is the variety (according to the grower, Marroni are a distinct cultivar) and how much of it is their far greater freshness. Not realizing I’d be wanting to compare them against something else that was equally fresh, I neglected to order any of the more common Colossals.

In other words, I’m pretty sure storage really matters. Chestnuts contain much more moisture than other nuts and should be kept  refrigerated until a few days before they’re wanted. Growers do this. Shippers and grocery stores do not.

The “few days before they’re wanted” part is because fresh chestnuts will be sweeter (and easier to peel) if they sit at room temperature and dry out, just slightly, before you cook them.

Sourcing: Simple googling will turn up several chestnut growers who ship – I got the Marroni from Correia Chestnut Farm.

Photo note: The Marroni are yellower, that’s not a trick of the light. The brown spots are because they take longer to cook and I hadn’t figured out how long when I took the picture (of the first batch).

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  • Thanks for the nice feedback on the Marroni, Leslie!

    I’m growing a few varieties of Marroni but harvesting them together as they are essentially the same in my eye (and mouth). When I experienced them the first time in Italy in 2001 I told a grower there that I had not seen chestnuts like these imported into the USA. He told me that they only exported the ordinary “castagnas” to the U.S. and joked “they’re good enough for the Americans!” The term Marroni is a designation given to the highest quality chestnuts grown in Italy and most varieties are given a name for the area they are grown in (i.e., Marroni de Marradi were the first I had and, of course, they were grown in Marradi). The lower quality varieties are simply called “castagnas” (chestnuts).

    Shortly after that trip I decided to grow Marroni here on my California farm myself. I think there are plenty of American’s who are good enough for Marroni! 😉

    Thanks again,


  • Tatiana Said,

    So this is odd, but I’ve never had chestnuts in any incarnation before. Not sure why, just one of those things that slipped the radar. I must remedy that this season.

  • Julia Said,

    Last year I was excited to get a huge bag of chestnuts from a friend who has a gorgeous tree. She noted to toss any nuts with little holes in them, indication of worms. I welcomed this year’s bag, eager to make sweet chestnut puree (and maybe Mont Blanc?) when I realized that after a few days on the porch a bag full of non-wormy chestnuts turned all wormy. Any information on that for back yard chestnut harvesters?

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