“How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. . . . All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.”Nikos Kazantzakis
They’re not really a popular Australian thing. The closest I came to a chestnut growing up was singing the line ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…’ from Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song, where families gathered inside, cosy and warm, while it snowed outside. Hilarious, given that the Christmas of my childhood in Australia was all about heatwaves, sunshine, ceiling fans and swimming pools.
The first time I ever ate a chestnut was in Italy – a candied chestnut in some kind of cake, with a chestnut cream on top. It was delicious. And that was that.
Until we moved to our farm here in Byron Bay.
The previous owners had planted a couple of pecans and a couple of chestnuts, which were just a few years old when we moved in. I was excited and delighted. But they were too young to fruit.
Then came the drought.
Each Autumn I’d turn up to find the trees had only produced withered nuts. I came to believe that chestnuts couldn’t fruit here, and I gave up on the possibility of ever enjoying my own roasted chestnuts.
My neighbour dropped by the other day to share some seedlings with me. She left the box on our front steps and we talked briefly, keeping a good distance between us. She commented on the chestnut and that she had stopped the last time she’d driven by to collect them. The nuts were big and fat and laying all over the ground, she told me.
Blow me down, they were!
Ben and I donned some gloves (chestnut prickles are nasty!) and collected fifteen kilograms of nuts in our first haul.
I’m going to sort through our harvest today and then cook some up tonight.
I’ll keep you posted. And if any of you have tips or recipes please shout out. I’m a complete chestnut novice and I’ll be googling what to do next!
Much love, and still-prickled fingers, Nicole xx