How-to: Chestnuts

Chestnuts Australia have all the details you need to make the most of these rich, versatile nuts this season.

Autumn’s crisp mornings and mild sunny days herald the arrival of Australia’s chestnut season. Delectably different from other nuts, chestnuts sweet-toasty flavour and natural goodness is only unlocked on roasting, baking, boiling, barbecuing, grilling or microwaving. Their irresistible aroma is a food memory that once experienced is never forgotten.

Production
Last year, 300 commercial growers across Australia harvested over 1,000 tonnes of fresh chestnuts and Chestnuts Australia is forecasting a bumper season, with an estimated 10 per cent increase in production this year.

Today, 75 per cent of Australian chestnuts are grown in north-east Victoria around the townships of Beechworth, Stanley, Bright, Mt Beauty, Wandiligong and Myrtleford. The remaining harvests are from east of Melbourne, Batlow, Orange, the Blue Mountains, the Southern Tablelands in NSW, the Adelaide Hills in SA, south west WA and north west Tasmania.

Growing Demand
While the demand for chestnuts is steadily increasing in Australia, consumption is considerable lower than in Europe and Asia. In Europe consumption is around 500g per person and in Asia (predominately Japan, Korea and China) chestnut consumption is approx.1kg per person annually.

Roasted Asian-style chicken with chestnuts is just one delicious recipe idea
Roasted Asian-style chicken with chestnuts is just one delicious recipe idea

“I don’t understand why more chefs don’t utilise chestnuts” says Italian-born chef and chestnut enthusiast, Stefano Manfredi. “Chestnuts are no more labour intensive than artichokes and their versatility and exquisite flavour adds value and interest to a seasonal menu.

Chestnuts are on trend, they are locally grown, natural, uniquely shaped, seasonal and delicious. Nutritionally they are more like a wholegrain than a nut; they are low in fat, contain protein, are a good source of low GI, gluten free and a source of dietary fibre.”

Throughout the season, from March to July, Manfredi’s three businesses embrace chestnuts and showcase them across their menus, at Osteria Balla Manfredi, Pizzaperta and Manfredi's at Bell's.

Entrée favourites: creamy chestnut and leek soup; roasted pumpkin and chestnut salad; pork, chestnut and cabbage rolls; duck and chestnut terrine.

Standouts mains: chestnut, mushroom and polenta; oxtail with chestnuts; chicken and chestnut risotto; pizza topped with a chestnut puree and pancetta (bases are created with a portion of chestnut flour to enrich the taste and texture)

Desserts: chestnut crepes; tortes layered with a chestnut, vanilla and hazelnut cream; chestnut gelato; chestnut tiramisu

“Once cooked and shelled, chestnuts freeze well too, so we also set aside a ready supply for utilising beyond the season, typically using them in our Christmas menus, in turkey stuffing, tossed whole or chopped with Brussels sprouts and pancetta, or we embellish mashed potato with a chestnut puree.” explains Manfredi.

Varieties
There are a large number of different varieties of chestnuts, each with their own distinct characteristics available throughout the season. From the 2012 Chestnut Australia Inc. survey, the five most-planted varieties across the industry were:
Red Spanish (36 per cent of all trees), Buffalo Queen (12 per cent), Purtons Pride (7 per cent), De Coppi Marone (6 per cent) and Bouche de Betizac (4 per cent).

The guide below details the seasonal availability of the five most widely grown varieties and some suggested cooking methods:
1. Bouche de Betizac – March-April – roast, boil, microwave, grill, BBQ
2. Buffalo Queen – March-April – boil
3. Red Spanish – April-July – boil
4. De Coppi Marrone – April-July – roast, boil microwave, grill, BBQ
5. Purton's Pride – April-July – roast, boil microwave, grill, BBQ

Prepared by Sue Dodd. For more information visit www.chestnutsaustralia.com.au