by Tina Ruggiero, M.S., R.D.
CHESTNUT NUTRITION FACTS
With complex carbohydrates and trace minerals, chestnuts have been described as “the grain that grows on trees.” Three nuts have about 1.5 grams of fiber, 70 calories and not much fat (due to their high water content). They’re also a good source of vitamin C.
CHESTNUT BUYING TIPS
Chestnut season is September through December, says Chestnut Growers of America. Look for nuts with a smooth outer shell and even color that don’t rattle when shaken (indicating dryness). Off-season, you can find them in specialty markets canned, frozen or dried.
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HOW TO STORE CHESTNUTS
Store fresh chestnuts in your refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag, recommends Chef Abigail Hitchcock, who owns CamaJe Bistro in New York City and Abigail Café & Wine Bar in Brooklyn. They’ll keep for nearly a month, she says. Store shelled or cooked nuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within three days.
CHESTNUT COOKING IDEAS
Chestnuts are one of the few ingredients that can literally be used from soup to nuts. They add luxurious flavor to entrees, make desserts more delicious, and can even be dried and ground into flour.
Though they’re a roasted staple this time of year, chestnuts have a troubled past here in America. “What had been the most important tree in our Eastern forest was reduced to insignificance” in the early 1900s, says the American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation. Disease from imported Asian chestnut trees killed 3.5 billion American chestnuts over 40 years, they say.
Unfortunately, the fungus that caused this blight is still around, so most chestnuts are imported. Organizations are making efforts to bring back the tree, but for now, chestnuts tend to be expensive and used most often for holiday treats.
TINA RUGGIERO, M.S., R.D., president of Nutrition Dialog, is a nutrition consultant, speaker and author in New York and Florida.
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Last updated and/or approved: December 2010. Original article appeared in November/December 2008 former print magazine. Bios current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.