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The Chestnut - From Sustenance to Culinary Delight

For the rural regions of Ticino in past centuries, the chestnut was a vital staple food. Until the mid-20th century, it often graced the dinner table twice a day, as during the winter months, many families had little else to rely on. After the autumn harvest, chestnuts were typically consumed by boiling or roasting them over open fires. To preserve them for extended periods or to create chestnut flour, they needed to be dried, a process carried out in specially constructed drying huts known as "grà." Additionally, the leaves of the chestnut trees were collected and served as livestock feed, emphasizing the multi-purpose role of chestnuts in the rural culture of Ticino.

While the chestnut's significance as the "bread of the poor" has waned, it still holds cultural importance in the region. During autumn almost every small village organizes a "castagnata" where everybody meets and shares roasted chestnuts and often a glass or more of wine. Culinary enthusiasts can find a wide variety of chestnut-based products, including honey, the classic hot roasted chestnuts, the delicacy "Marron Glacé," and the traditional dessert known as Vermicelle. These culinary delights and local festivities keep the rich heritage of chestnuts alive, even as their role in sustenance has evolved over time.

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