There is something so exciting and wonderful about finding food growing naturally and flourishing like good food is meant to. While walking my dogs in the Newlands Forest I came across these dangerous looking spiky balls. I only realised after seeing one opened that inside these lethal looking balls lay these beautiful shiny chestnuts. What a find. Here in the forest growing without interference from man were these majestic chestnut trees that were producing a bounty of these gorgeous nuts.
These tennis ball sized pods covered in spikes hold 2-3 beautiful large and glossy chestnuts. Once you get into them you see these perfect nuts – I can only think of how excited Scrat from Ice Age would be to find these huge nuts.
In order to get into the pod and retrieve the Chestnut prize, you need to get past the spikes. These spikes are deceptively painful if you do need treat them with some respect (as my fingers will be able to tell you). I found the easiest thing to do was roll them under my shoe on the ground. The weight and rolling will pop the pod open and then you can pull the nuts out the pod. In each pod there are 2-3 Chestnuts. In all the ones I picked up I found there were mostly 2 large Chestnuts with a small 3rd Chestnut that had no space to grow so is a thin and non-existant nut. Throw those small ones away as they cannot be eaten.
When we went to the UK a few years ago in December it seemed that on every corner there was a little stand with someone roasting Chestnuts. We snacked on these giant nuts as we walked down the road seeing all the Christmas lights and decorations.
I have never cooked these myself so I went about researching how to eat them. First off you need to get the soft nut inside out of the tough shell. I read a hilarious story of a lady roasting them and half way through thinking she was in the middle of a drive by shooting as the chestnuts exploded in the oven as they had not been cut open. I am super glad I did a bit of research to ensure I didn’t dive under the covers thinking someone was shooting at me hahaha.
Here is how I roasted my chestnuts and they came out beautifully.
Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Prep Time: 5 - 30 Minutes
- Preheat your oven to 250C
- Cut a large cross into the exterior of the shell (don’t be shy cut a big cross – I cut a lot of mine too small and this made it tricky later on to peel them)
- Place on a baking tray and place in the oven for 30 minutes
- Remove from the oven and start peeling the shell off the nut (be careful not to burn yourself)
- There is a thin covering on the nut under the shell can be quite tricky to remove – I found the easiest way to remove this skin is to use a sharp pointed knife.
- Once they are all out their shells – enjoy
- Slit a cross in them to ensure that the nuts do not explode in the oven
- Try peel when hot – it is easier this way