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Chestnut (Castanea) (some species called chinkapin or chinquapin) is a genus of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the beech family Fagaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The name also refers to the edible nuts they produce.[1][2][3]


The Chestnut belongs to the same Fagaceae family as the Oak and Beech. There are four main species, commonly known as European, Chinese, Japanese and American Chestnuts[4]:

  • European species. Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) (also called "Spanish Chestnut" in the US) is the only European species of chestnut.
  • Asiatic species. Castanea crenata (Japanese Chestnut), Castanea mollissima (Chinese Chestnut), Castanea davidii (China), Castanea henryi (Chinese chinkapin, also called Henry's Chestnut – China) and Castanea seguinii (also called Seguin's Chestnut - China).
  • American species. These include Castanea dentata (American Chestnut - Eastern states), Castanea pumila (American- or Allegheny Chinkapin, also known as "Dwarf Chestnut" - Eastern states), Castanea alnifolia (Southern states), Castanea ashei (Southern states), Castanea floridana (Southern states) and Castanea paupispina (Southern states).[5][6]

Chestnuts should not be confused with either Horse Chestnuts (genus Aesculus), or Water Chestnut (family Cyperaceae); these are unrelated to Castanea and are named for producing nuts of similar appearance but of no notable edibility in the case of the former, and tubers of similar taste from an aquatic herbaceous plant in the case of the latter.[7][8] Other trees commonly mistaken for the Chestnut tree are the Chestnut Oak (Fagaceae Quercus prinus) and the American Beech (Fagus grandifolia).[9][10]


Chestnut trees are of moderate growth rate (for the Chinese Chestnut tree) to fast-growing for American and European species.[17] Their mature heights vary from the smallest species of chinkapins, often shrubby,[18] to the giant of past American forests, Castanea dentata that could reach 60m. In between these extremes are found the Japanese Chestnut (Castanea crenata) at 10m average (although this specimen shows that they can reach greater bulks); followed by the Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima) at about 15 m, then the European Chestnut (Castanea sativa) around 30 m.[10]

The Chinese and more so the Japanese Chestnuts are both often multi-leadered and wide-spreading,[10] whereas European and especially American species tend to grow very erect when planted among others, with little tapering of their columnar trunk which is firmly set and massive. When standing on their own they spread on the sides and develop broad, rounded, dense crowns at maturity.[17] The two latter's foliage has striking yellow Autumn colouring.[19]

Chestnuts can be found on the ground around trees

The fruit is contained in a spiny (very sharp) cupule 2 to 3 inches or 5 to 11 centimetres diameter, also called "bur" or "burr".[22] The burrs are often paired or clustered on the branch[18] and contain one to seven nuts according to the different species, varieties and cultivars.[1][2][23][24] At around the time when the fruits reach maturity, the burrs turn yellow-brown and split open in 2 or 4 sections. They can remain on the tree longer than they hold the fruit, but more often achieve complete opening and release the fruits only after having fallen on the ground and partly due to soil humidity.

The chestnut fruit has a pointy end with at the tip a small tuft called 'flame' in Italian[6], and a hilum – an oblong spot at the other end of the fruit. In many varieties the fruit is flattened on one or two sides. It has two skins. The first one, is a hard outer shiny brown hull or husk, called the pericarpus;[25] the industry calls it 'the peel'.[6] Underneath the pericarpus is another thinner skin, also called "pellicle" or "episperm".[25] The pellicle closely adheres to the seed itself, following the grooves usually present at the surface of the fruit. These grooves are of variable sizes and depth according to the species and varieties. They make the peeling in most cases difficult without the appropriate technique – (external link).[26]
The fruit inside these shows two cotyledons with a creamy-white flesh throughout,[8] except in some varieties which show only one cotyledons, and whose episperm is only slightly if not intruded at all. Usually these varieties have only one large fruit per burr, well rounded (no flat face) and which is called "marron"[6] ("Marron de Lyon" in France, "Marron di Mugello" in Italy, "Paragon", ...).

The superior fruiting varieties among European Chestnuts have good size, sweet taste and easy-to-remove inner skins.[citation needed] American Chestnuts are usually very small (around 5 g), but sweet tasting with easy-to-remove pellicles. Some Japanese varieties have huge nuts (around 40 g), with typically difficult to remove pellicles. Chinese Chestnuts' pellicle is usually easy to remove and their sizes vary greatly according to the varieties, although usually smaller than the Japanese Chestnut.[10]


Always served as part of the New Year menu in Japan, chestnuts represent both success and hard times — mastery and strength.[15] The Japanese chestnut (called kuri) was in cultivation before rice[47] and the Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) possibly for 2,000–6,000 years.[10]

China has about 300 chestnut cultivars, commonly divided into five areas: Northern, Yangtze River Valley, Sichuan and Guizhou, Southern and Southwestern. Moreover, the Dandong chestnut (belonging to the Japanese chestnut-Castanea crenata) is a major cultivar in Liaoning Province.[48]

The chestnut is found in the Himalayan belt[citation needed], but it occurs mostly in the wild and is not a major cash crop.


Fresh chestnut fruits have about 180 Kcalories to 200 Kcal per 100 gr. of product; it is nevertheless much lower than that of walnuts, almonds, other nuts and dried fruit (about 600 Kcal per 100 gr). As with any plant product, chestnuts contain no cholesterol. They also contain very little fat, mostly unsaturated, and no gluten.

Their carbohydrate content compares with that of wheat and rice; chestnuts have twice as much starch as the potato.In some areas Sweet Chestnut trees are called "the bread tree". When chestnuts are just starting to ripen, the fruit is mostly starch and is very firm under finger pressure from the high water content. As the chestnuts ripen, the starch is slowly converted into sugars; and moisture content also starts decreasing. Upon pressing the chestnut a slight 'give' can be felt: the hull is not so tense, there is space between it and the flesh of the fruit.The water is being replaced by sugars, which means better conservation.

They are the only "nuts" that carry vitamin C.One ounce of boiled or steamed chestnuts has 7 mg of vitamin C; dried chestnuts have more than double that amount with 16.6 mg. for one ounce,as much as the lemon.Fresh chestnuts have a very high water content: superior to 52%, and a high transpiration rate similar to that of potatoes and onions. They can lose even 1% of weight in one day at 20°C and 70% relative humidity.

Tannin is contained in the bark as well as in the wood, leaves and seed husks. The husks contain 10 - 13% tannin.

The fruit also contains many other micro-nutrients:

Main Constituents –Chestnut Fruit



Comparison with apple


about 3 g/100g to 4 g/100g.

0.2 g/100g.


from less than 2 g/100g to 2.6 g/100g.No cholesterol

0.1 g/100g.

Glucids – starch

28 g/100g to 44 g/100g.They contain twice as much starch as the potato.


Glucids – soluble sugars

8.1 g/100g in soluble sugars, monosaccharides and disaccharides, mainly sucrose, glucose, fructose, and raffinose.3.3 g/100g.

1.0 g/100g.

Total carbohydrates

32.1 g/100g.

14.0 g/100g.


1 g/100g.



20 g/100g ou 14.9 g/100g.

0.1 g/100g.


High water content: superior to 52%.



1mg/100g  to 1.2mg/100g. 0.7 mg/100g.

0.3 mg/100g.


0.4 mg/100g.

0.04 mg/100g.








85mg/100g to 89mg/100g.



500 mg/100g. 468 mg/100g.

110 mg/100g








mentioned. 1.1mg/100g, 0.8mg/100g

1.0 mg/100g


38mg/100g to 40mg/100g. 17.6 mg/100g.

7.0 mg/100g

Vitamin B1

mentioned. (anti-beriberic, or aneurin, or thiamine) 0.22mg/100g.


Vitamin B2

mentioned. (riboflavin) 0.35 mg/100g.


Vitamin B3

(nicotinic acid, niacin or orniacin) 1.4mg/100g.


Vitamin C

50mg/100g, as much as in the lemon.



The fruit can be peeled and eaten raw, but eaten raw it can be somewhat astringent, especially if the pellicle is not removed.

Another method of eating the fruit involves roasting (which does not require peeling). Roasting requires scoring the fruit beforehand to prevent undue expansion and "explosion" of the fruit. Once cooked, its texture is similar to that of a baked potato, with a delicate, sweet, and nutty flavour.This method of preparation is popular in northern China where the scored chestnuts may be cooked in a tub of heated coal pebbles.

Chestnuts can be dried and milled into flour, which can then be used to prepare breads, cakes, pancakes, pastas (it is the original ingredient for "polenta", known in Corsica as "pulenda"), used as thickener for stews, soups, sauces..., . The flour can be light beige like that from Castagniccia, or darker in other regions. It is a good solution for long storage of a nutritious food. Chestnut bread keeps fresh for as long as two weeks.

A fine granular sugar can be obtained from the fermentation of the juice, as well as a beer; and the roasted fruit provides a coffee substitute.Parmentier, who among other things was a famous potato promoter, extracted sugar from chestnuts and sent a chestnut sugarloaf of several pounds' weight to the Academy of Lyon. The continental blockade following shortly after (1806-1814) increased the research into developing chestnuts as a source of sugar, but Napoleon chose beets instead.

The nuts can also be eaten candied, boiled, steamed, grilled, roasted or fried (fritters), in sweet or savoury recipes. They can be used to stuff vegetables, poultry, fowl and other edibles.They are available fresh, dried, ground, canned (whole or in puree).

Candied chestnuts (whole chestnuts candied in sugar syrup, then iced) are sold under the French name marrons glacés or Turkish name kestane şekeri ("sugared chestnuts"). They appeared in France in the 16th century. Towards the end of 19th century, Lyon recessed with the collapse of the textile market, notably silk. Clément Faugier ingénieur des Ponts et Chaussées, was looking for a way to revitalize the regional economy. In 1882 at Privas, he invented the technology to make marrons glacés on an industrial scale (although a great deal of the over-twenty necessary steps from harvest to the finished product are still accomplished manually). Chestnuts are picked in autumn, and candied from the start of the following summer for the ensuing Christmas. Thus the marrons glacés eaten at Christmas are those picked the year before.

Sweet Chestnuts are not easy to peel when cold. One kilogram of (untainted) chestnuts yields approximately 700g of shelled chestnuts.

Chestnuts' taste vary slightly from one to the next but is somewhat sweet and certainly unique. Chestnut-based recipes and preparations are making a comeback in Italian cuisine, as part of the trend toward rediscovery of traditional dishes and better nutrition.