Chestnuts in Germany (Esskastanien, Maronen)

Last Updated on May 19, 2023

Roasted chestnuts are an essential part of Advent. In recent years, chestnuts in Germany have been sold far less than before and prices are incredible. Only Aldi rescues the situation – here you can buy small cheap chestnuts. In southern Germany you can also pick chestnuts in the forest. In this topic – how to distinguish edible chestnuts and how to cook them.

Let’s first understand the difference between Kastanien, Esskastanien and Maronen.

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Chestnuts in Germany: Kastanien, Esskastanien and Maronen

Kastanien and Rosskastanien are words for horse chestnuts. They are not edible.

Esskastanien – sweet chestnuts in the forest. Maronen – cultivated sweet chestnuts, they are larger.

Chestnuts are an exclusively autumn product. They spoil very quickly. And after you’ve bought them, it’s best to eat them within a week – or someone else will eat them for you (mold or caterpillars).

By the way, they also do not lie in the store for a long time. They’re spoiling. And if you see that a box of chestnuts lies for a long time and the quantity does not change (for example, it is expensive), then you should not buy them either. Each chestnut (given their exorbitant cost) needs to be examined. There should be no damage, holes, whitish plaque, unpleasant smell.

According to my observations, chestnuts are better when they are light brown in color. My assumption is that chestnuts darken while they are lying, and the longer they are, the more likely they are to go bad.

How to distinguish edible sweet chestnuts and horse chestnuts?

In southern Germany, Switzerland, Italy and other southern european countries, you can find edible chestnuts in the forest. Do not forget to ask about the rules – is it possible to collect something in this forest at all. As a rule, it is possible to collect, but not to shoot down fruits.

Rules in Germany

The sweet chestnut has leaves similar to those of the horse chestnut, but they are narrower. The tree itself is not so strong and thick, more like an aspen.

Chestnut fruits fall in a very prickly soft shell. To collect them, you need gloves. Each shell contains several small chestnuts. In horse chestnut, the shell is harder and there are few thorns on it.

The main difference that will help you determine if a chestnut is edible or not is:
horse chestnuts are perfectly smooth and round
edible chestnuts have a sharp spout.

In the photo, the top one is horse chestnut. In the lower half are edible chestnuts. The upper one is purchased from Aldi, the rest are forest.

It makes sense to collect only chestnuts lying on top that have recently fallen. The chestnuts that were left were probably already spoiled.

How to cook edible chestnuts

Sweet chestnuts can be boiled or roasted. But in any case, you first need to cut – crosswise or at least once. Uncut chestnuts can explode in the oven. From my own experience, I can say that you will not want to repeat this mistake.

Method 1. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes at a temperature of 200-220 degrees.

Method 2. Boil for 20 minutes.

Method 3. Blanch for a couple of minutes, then roast in the oven.

Chestnuts can also be eaten raw.

Chestnuts in Germany
Chestnuts in Germany

When roasted chestnuts are more “nutty” and sweeter. The peel, if you do not spare your fingers and remove it from the still hot fruits, separates easily, good and well-fried chestnuts jump out of the peel themselves. Most often, problems with peeling occur in spoiled chestnuts (wormy or moldy).

Boiled chestnuts are less sweet and more potato-like. While they are moist, the peel comes off easily.

Chestnuts are healthy food. Just do not forget that this is nourishing and completely independent food. Too many chestnuts or chestnuts right after a good meal can lead to heartburn.

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