Together with the golden hues of autumn and the fallen leaves, a variety of delicious flavors are floating in the air – baked pumpkin, stewed quince, roasted chestnuts, boiled corn on the cob… Small, fragrant packages of roasted chestnuts with dense flavor are sold on special grills put on the sidewalks, like a real autumn.
Chestnuts are not only delicious and aromatic, but are also extremely healthy.
100g of them contain only 2g of fat, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin C and B12, and no gluten.
This makes them a preferred food both for people on a diet and for those who are allergic to gluten. The fresh chestnuts contain a lot of water – 49.8%, 42.8% carbohydrates, 2.9% protein, 1.9% fat and 1.4% cellulose.
From the carbohydrates, 16% is starch, 7% dextrin and 4% sugars (glucose and sucrose). Chestnuts contain malic, citric and lactic acid and a fair amount of lecithin (355mg%).
By the 5th century BC chestnuts were grown only in Asia Minor and Greece and later they reached the whole Mediterranean, South and Central Europe.
Before potatoes were brought in Europe, chestnuts were one of the main nutrients in this region. Flour was made of them caring the same nutritional value of wheat flour. For the inhabitants of the island of Corsica chestnuts are still equal to wheat. More than 300 000 acres of its territory are occupied by chestnut forests. The natives dry and grind them to flour, and prepare meals such as polenta, various gruels and purees, cakes, buns and pastries. Probably that’s why this food is so particularly important, having in mind that Napoleon Bonaparte was Corsican. One of the most common Parisian autumn views is precisely that of smiling vendors with camp ovens with roasted chestnuts on the boulevards.
Chestnuts cannot be consumed raw because of their high content of saponins which give them a very tart taste. When heat treated (boiling or baking), part of the starch is hydrolyzed to sugars and they obtain nice sweet taste and aroma.
Besides being nourishing food, chesnuts also possess pronounced healing properties. Yet Avicenna recommended the fruits, leaves and barks of the chestnut tree for treatment of varicose veins, hemorrhoids, unhealing wounds, gout and other diseases. The famous doctor and philosopher cured sinusitis and migraine with the so called “chestnut wreath” of strung on a cord and cut in halves fresh fruits.
Chestnuts are low–calorie – 100g contain 180 kcal.
They resemble potatoes, which by their nature are not caloric, but the fat with which they are prepared makes them such. Roasted chestnuts are satiating and with the lowest fat content compared to other nuts, so there is no reason to limit them when you follow a diet for weight loss.
Finally, I will mention the generally acknowledged natural healer Petar Dimkov who had a special attitude especially towards the wild chestnut, which we frivolously kick around in the parks every autumn.
In the autumn months the healer always kept 2-3 of these fruits in his pocket, as he believed they protect him as a natural amulet from the negative ill energy that the sufferers brought with them. “These small, brown, shiny balls are amazing batteries of sun, energy and life and they give it generously, with constant radiation throughout the year”, said Dimkov.
In fact, most of the ancestors of medicine were convinced that the very carrying or holding in the palm of chestnuts has a beneficial effect on joints, tendons, muscles and the nervous system.