Welcome to our newsletter for Winter 2016.
Well the chestnut harvest is over and the trees have all just about lost their leaves and are looking quite bare. The winter weather in North East Victoria has been cold and wet – luckily not like the destructive high winds and tides that affected the east coast of Australia causing such mayhem but even so it’s not the weather for venturing far from the fire so I’ve been at home trying to keep warm. Lots of chestnut soup and hearty casseroles are helping – they improve my mood but certainly not my waistline! Wherever you are I hope you’re keeping safe and warm too.
As I mentioned in the last newsletter the La Fiera Italian Festival was held locally in Myrtleford from 17-22 May. It was a great event and is getting bigger and bigger every year.
For the whole day the large chestnut roasting pan is cooking chestnuts. Brian is usually in charge of the cooking and there are always lots of helpers to score chestnuts. Everyone was kept very busy and there were over 250 kg of roasted chestnuts sold during the day.
This year has seen the appearance of a very nasty fungi that has infected a large number of fresh chestnuts. Few if any growers have been completely immune and there is a great deal of work being done behind the scenes to try to find a solution. It is thought that the fungi infects the nut and the time of pollination but it is only when climatic conditions are favourable that it actually develops. It grows inside the shell and unless it is very advanced it is difficult for growers to identify infected nuts and grade them out. A very small problem at harvest becomes a big problem by the time the nuts have travelled to the wholesale market and then onto retailers. Even the best cold storage and transport cannot prevent the development of the rot. Consumers have been frustrated by purchasing nuts that are no good and this is completely understandable. Trials of orchard treatments will be commencing this year and hopefully the issue can be controlled. Your patience and continued support is appreciated whilst the industry tackles this most vexing problem.
The Harvest Feast with Stefano Manfredi was a sellout and from all accounts a wonderful evening indulging in lots of chestnut dishes as well as featuring other local products. On the Saturday Stefano did a chestnut cooking class and it was standing room only. His recipe for Mezzemaniche (large pasta tubes) with chestnuts, Italian pork sausage and porcini was so good. Click here for the recipe. The wonderful thing about Stefano’s demonstrations is that not only is he entertaining he always makes enough for everyone in the audience to get a sample. You can easily substitute any pasta for the Messemaniche.
New Products – Dried Chestnuts
We often get asked for dried chestnuts so have sourced some from the lovely growers who supply our delicious chestnut flour. These are the nuts that are milled into flour, we’ve just got to them before the miller, but stocks are limited. The nuts have been dried over a number of days at a very low heat to give them a delicious toasted flavour notes. Click here to go to our online shop.
Last October Brian and I visit Italy and France on a mission to experience Autumn and chestnut time. I was planning to write a blog during the trip but just didn’t have time as I was enjoying myself way too much to sit down and write. I wanted to get out and about. One of the areas we visited was Lake Como – wow! It was wonderful and being October was outside of peak season so the numbers of people around were manageable. We love walking and had found a walk called The Greenway. We walked around 23 km in total and followed the ancient road that the Romans used to get from Rome up to Germania through the Alps. We started our walk by taking a cable car from Argegno to Pigra. Then we walked from Pigra down to Colonno on the edge of the lake. The scenery is spectacular but what was such a surprise for us was the number of dying and dead chestnut trees. The whole area had obviously (to us) been a chestnut forest and in some parts there was terracing indicating the chestnuts had been planted rather than form part of a wild forest. We even discovered a couple of derelict huts called Metatos (photo) that were used to dry chestnuts, so there must have been quite a harvest here in years gone by. Although some trees survived, now it was more like walking through a chestnut graveyard.
We had no idea chestnuts had been grown in Lake Como like this and it’s likely that during the first and second world wars many inhabitants from around this area relied on chestnuts to keep them alive. We continued from Colonno following the trail to just past Tremezzo where we caught the ferry back to Bellagio where we were staying. It was a full day but so worth it – finding the chestnuts there and imagining what it would have been like 50-100 years ago was a surprising bonus and really added to the experience.
At this time of the year when it’s cold outside I always look forward to chestnut soup. We have lots of different recipes, some plain chestnut and others a combination of chestnut with something else such as mushroom or pumpkin. There are many chestnut soup recipes on our website. Click here to have a look at our selection.
If you’ve got this far – thank you for reading our newsletter and I look forward bringing you more information in the future. Jane