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    By Anthony Parente

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    When many people think of chestnuts the first thing that comes to mind is the verse Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Many people don't realize how important this food crop has been throughout history. For centuries this source of food has been a staple in many diets. In fact, Dioscorides, Galen, Homer and Pliny all have mentioned chestnuts in their writings. Some even go as far as to tell us how this nut protected people against various health hazards. Nutritionally speaking the nuts are low in fat and low in calories. Their starchy nature makes them high in carbohydrates and they are the only nut to contain a significant amount of vitamin C.

    Harsh winters and various diseases played a major part in the decline of chestnut consumption. What was an abundantly growing tree soon became scarce and people became discouraged from replanting for fear the disease would return. In the United States the chestnut trees flourished throughout the land until the early part of the 20th century. In 1904 Asian trees planted along the Bronx Zoo contained a deadly fungus. Within two decades this fungus nearly wiped out all of the chestnut trees in the United States. In order to get chestnuts they needed to be imported. These chestnuts were brought in from European countries in particularly Italy. To this day the majority of chestnuts found in the supermarkets throughout North America are still imported from Italy.

    The chestnut can be used for a variety of recipes and they can even be grinded to make a chestnut flour. If you enjoy chestnuts you might want to try these recipes:

    Chestnut and Ricotta Semifreddo
    Chestnut Bread
    Chestnut Chocolate Dessert
    Chestnut Filled Ravioli
    Chestnut Soup With Amaretto
    Chestnut Tagliatelle
    Croccanti di Marroni
    Chestnut Stuffing
    Italian Chestnut Cookies

    As you can see there is more to chestnuts than just roasting them. If you still prefer the roasted variety here is how you can make your own at home.

    Roasting Chestnuts:

    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit.
    • With a paring knife make an x on either side of the chestnut.
    • Place the chestnuts on a baking sheet an put them in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes.
    • Make sure to remove the hard outer shell as well as the dark brown skin on the inside.

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