Warm up this holiday season with chestnutsNow that the Thanksgiving holiday has passed, we are bombarded with the piles of shopping ads for extraordinary deals on items we just can’t live without. We have made it through Black Friday without getting trampled, pushed and shoved into next year and we have completely filled ourselves with way too much food during the holiday.
By: John Zvirovski , The Jamestown Sun
Now that the Thanksgiving holiday has passed, we are bombarded with the piles of shopping ads for extraordinary deals on items we just can’t live without. We have made it through Black Friday without getting trampled, pushed and shoved into next year and we have completely filled ourselves with way too much food during the holiday. Now we have entered into the Christmas season of sweets, goodies and spirits. We have surrounded ourselves with the colors of red and green along with many other accents.
Don’t allow yourself to get too caught up with all the hustle and bustle of the season. Remember that keeping your holiday simple will have the best results with the most enjoyment. Keep to the many traditions and history that comes along with the Christmas season. Some of those traditions are still the best of the best, whether it is drinking eggnog on Christmas Eve spiked with a little rum or singing Christmas carols from house to house or around a player at the piano. There are many enjoyable events that come along with the holidays that don’t have to feel rushed or get one stressed out.
One of the Christmas carols that comes to mind is “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose. …” The thought of sitting at the open fire on a cold evening roasting chestnuts sounds quite appealing to me. I am sure many people through the centuries have enjoyed those same moments to pass on from generation to generation.
Chestnuts are a common treat for the holiday season as they ripen in late fall and are ready just in time for the holiday season. Typically they only stay fresh for a total of 60 days before going bad or drying out. Chestnuts are produced on both trees and large shrubs depending on the variety. They cannot be grown in our region as they only survive in zones 5 through 9.
Chestnuts trees are grown in three main varieties: the European, Asiatic and American species. For centuries, the American chestnut tree was the predominant tree east of the Mississippi River. In fact, it was also the main wood used for making furniture, fences and for building homes. It was a tall tree with a strong wood that was prime for even the production of boats.
In the early 1900s the chestnut blight fungus entered North America via the state of New York and quickly spread throughout the species. Within a few decades, the American chestnut species was nearly wiped out. More than 4 billion trees succumbed to the disease and for many years after, it had a very difficult time making its return. The only species resistant to the blight was the Asiatic selection. Botanists have strived since to produce a blight resistant variety that is as close to the original American chestnut as possible. Only 1 percent of the trees today in North America are the American chestnut. Since that time we have also seen other species succumb to disease such as the American elm with Dutch elm disease and now we are in the beginning stages of losing the ash species to emerald ash borer. It is one of the downfalls of a dominance of any type of species in nature that can create its own monoculture.
Chestnut trees prefer full sunlight with deep, well-drained soils that get at least 31 inches of rain a year on a consistent basis. They will not grow in heavy clay soils or soils that are alkaline in culture. From seed, it can take up to 40 years for some species to begin producing a noticeable crop of nuts. However, if this species is grafted onto a resistant rootstock, production can begin in as soon as five to 10 years.
Most chestnuts today are imported from the Mediterranean region. As the nuts mature on the trees, their burred husks will turn yellow. The end of the husk will open allowing the nut to fall from within, but oftentimes the nut falls from the tree before opening.
Once harvested, the husks are removed and the nut is inside a thin, dark brown shell. This shell can be peeled away to eat the nut inside. Chestnuts are low in fats, contain no cholesterol, are gluten-free and are the only nuts that contain Vitamin C. They are lower in calories than walnuts, almonds and other nuts and dried fruits.
When taking on the tradition of roasting chestnuts, score an “X” on the top of the nut shell and place them “X” up on a cookie sheet. Heat the oven to 425 F and place the pan into the oven for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to create a tender and sumptuous treat. Scoring the nutshell will keep the nut from exploding in the oven due to the trapped steam within the nut. Be very careful when trying them, as they will be quite hot when coming out of the oven.
Start your holiday season off with this tradition today and score some chestnuts, place them in a pan and gently roast them over an open fire while enjoying a special cup of spiked nog with a friend or loved one. It may be one of the best ways to start off the season while others are racing around causing undue stress in their lives. Here’s to the beginning of a wondrous and joyous season filled with love, life and giving.