"Order! Come to order please!" calls Rocky Squirrel, rapping on the conference table. "The meeting of the Nut Task Force is in session. Roll call." The considerable chatting subsides.
“Woody?” – “Here.”
“BrightEyes?” - “Here.”
“Squeaks? – “Present.”
“Cheeks?” - “Here.”
"We need to explain to FruitGuys customers what makes chestnuts so special. Woody?"
"The chestnut was a food staple in Europe and Asia for millennia before the introduction of the potato. It grew in mountainous areas and along the Mediterranean, where cereal crops did not grow well. Chestnuts were referred to as ”˜bread trees.’ In America, especially in the South and in Appalachia, chestnuts were an important food source. Many people remember gathering windfall winter crops in their childhood. In fact nostalgia abounds with this nut—how about the well-known strains from Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song? Many folks still recall when the Blue Ridge Mountains were covered with so many chestnut trees’ blossoms it looked like snow. It was said
a squirrel could travel from New York to Georgia via treetop without ever touching the ground."
Bright Eyes rises to her feet. "So what happened?” Woody replies. “In 1904 chestnut blight first appeared at the New York Botanical Garden, then quickly spread throughout the eastern seaboard. Within 40 years it killed 4 billion trees. Today conservancies are propagating disease-resistant varieties. The Colossal variety, like the ones in this week's TakeHome case, grows beautifully without pesticides at Manchester Ridge in Mendocino County."
"A noble nut indeed, but really an un-nut," says Squeaks. "Unlike most nuts we know, the chestnut is low fat—one fourth the fat of walnuts. They are high in protein—3g per 100g of cooked Chestnuts. Dried chestnut flour has twice that. Its high fiber and trace minerals make it as nutritious as brown rice."
"Most importantly, chestnuts are delicious,” adds Cheeks, quoting New York Times food writer Mark Bittman. Their “complex, fragrant flavor is so powerfully distinctive, just a few chestnuts can have an enormous impact on a dish.” Peeled whole Chestnuts with Brussels Sprouts is a classic stuffing. They are heavenly mashed with root vegetables or whipped with honey for a spread. On a winter day Chestnut and Apple Soup is wonderful. To peel, boil or microwave until the leathery shell cracks away. To roast, slice an "x" on the flat part and roast at 400 ° for 20 minutes. Fresh chestnuts should be kept in the fridge so they don’t spoil.”
Rocky smiles approvingly. "Okay, everybody. Meeting adjourned. Time for lunch."
- Heidi Lewis