Sweet Chestnuts are very commonly found in parks in the UK. Their latin name is Castanea sativa. These photos were taken in Hyde Park in London on a recent visit to the big city. When we saw this tree there were several parakeets nibbling away at the chestnuts.
There are many flocks of parakeets in parts of London that have escaped and adapted to their new found freedom and numbers have grown massively since the 1990’s. There are quite a few parrots too. I never quite get used to seeing parakeets and parrots in the in-laws garden in Croydon!
In the autumn and winter in France the aroma of roasting chestnuts seems to be everywhere. Marrons are the cultivated version of wild sweet chestnuts and usually have one or two large chestnuts in each whereas wild ones may have one or two nuts but usually some smaller flat ones too.
Sweet chestnuts have a pointed end and conkers or horse chestnuts are rounded and have larger spikes on the shell casing ..birds will eat both but conkers are not edible for us.
In October the casings of sweet chestnuts will go brown and fall on the ground when they are ready – just tread on them to get at the nuts and collect the larger ones and not the flat ones. They do need to be cooked before eating but are very tasty, versatile and gluten free too.. will post more recipes soon but I love them just roasted.
The easiest way to cook them is slit the skins with a sharp knife and throw them in an open fire.. leave one chestnut whole and when it goes pop the others are cooked. If you don’t have an open fire just slit the skins with a knife and boil them up for about 15 minutes, the shell will peel off easily but the inner membrane is a bit trickier to remove. You can either just eat them as they are or save them in an airtight container in the fridge and use in a recipe later.