Turnip & MFM: Chestnuts

For those of us in the city, few things say ‘winter is here’ more than the smell of roasting chestnuts from tiny stalls on the CBD streets. They’re a great, warming snack, but chestnuts are a sturdy ingredient in winter cooking and comforting match to with a glass of red wine. We had a chat to Kylie and Joel from Sawyer Rd Chestnuts in Samaria in north-east Victoria who are holding their first stall ever at the Melbourne Farmers Markets tomorrow – June 3 – in Carlton.
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1. What do you love about chestnuts?
Aside from the fact that chestnuts are really healthy for you they are really versatile as well. You can add them into almost anything or they are perfect on their own. Chestnut harvest is a great time of year. Although it’s busy, the weather is beautiful and you get to be outdoors with your friends and family (and whoever else you can rope in!) picking nuts and usually having a great conversations solving the world’s problems. My kids are always in the paddocks with us, chasing crickets or helping us with the nuts.
2. Are chestnuts easy to grow?
Chestnuts luckily are a tree that we can manage on a part-time basis and we travel most weekends to the farm to prune, mow or graft depending on what time of year it is. A tree will start producing nuts at around the five-year mark, so if you are planting from seed you have to wait a little while before having a decent harvest. We have issues with pests that can damage the immature trees in particular which include deer, wombats, cockies, parrots, wild pigs and kangaroos.
3. What should consumers look for when buying chestnuts, what questions should we ask?
When looking for a chestnut you want to purchase ones that are shiny, really firm and quite heavy to feel. Nuts that have give in their shell and look dull are no good.
Chestnuts need to be stored in the fridge to ensure freshness. When stored in the fridge, you can get 3 to 4 weeks out of them. Storing them at 0 degrees is ideal. I would be checking with your grocer if the chestnuts have been stored in a coolroom.
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4. What is your favourite way to enjoy chestnuts?
 The best way to eat a chestnut is roasted and enjoyed with a glass of good red wine. That’s my favourite anyway! I have been enjoying adding them to smoothies and risottos with seasonal produce. I made a risotto the other night with chestnuts, asparagus, bacon and parmesan cheese and it was amazing! I turned the leftovers into arancini balls, the kids scoffed the lot! Pumpkin and chestnut soup is a favourite here as well at this time of year.
5. If you could tell people 2 to 3 points about why it’s good to buy seasonal and local produce what would they be?
 I personally love eating seasonal produce for so many reasons: the produce is at its best, usually at its cheapest and it’s when it tastes best! We are so spoilt in Australia with all the different types of food we can grow and eat and how special is it being able to go down to the Melbourne Farmers Market and meet the amazing people (self included, LOL) that grew your food and proudly sell it to you?!  
Go here to find out more about Sawyer Road Chestnuts 
To find out where the next market is closet to you, go to: Melbourne Farmers Markets 

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