chestnut  

Castanea sativa
IMG_20191015_100452 (4).jpg

October

 

Many events have traditionally been held across Europe each Autumn to celebrate the harvesting of chestnuts.

This is a list of some that have generally taken place in October, but it is by no means definitive and a number may no longer exist

ITALY
 
Piedmont
 
15 -17 October 2021
The Fiera Nazionale de Marrone, is the National Chestnut Fair held in Cuneo, in the region of Piedmont.  Described as 'one of the most important food festivals of Italy'  [italybyevents.com], the town is surrounded by one of the country's most important chestnut-producing regions.  Some 25 -30,000 kg of chestnuts are eaten at the Fair each year.  [www.marrone.net]

[www.italybyevents.com/en/events/piemonte/cuneo-national-chestnut-fair]

Viterbo province, near Rome: Vallerano

Cultivated in the region since the 1500s, once used as currency and the main source of income for local people, chestnuts were traditionally stored underground and dried to preserve them. In 2009 they were given the distinction of the EU's'Protected Designation of Origination' label. “The Friends of the Vallerano chestnut”, now plan the harvest and its festival (running for the last 17 years) with events held on weekends during October and culminating in a finale on the first weekend of November.

[italytravelandlife.com/food/italian-chestnut-festivals/]

Also in Viterbo province is the festival held in Soriano nel Cimino.  Dating back to the 15thC and with two parts - a historical reenactment and celebrations in honour of the chestnut, it is to be held over the weekends of  25 - 26th September & 8 -10 & 15 -17 October 2021. 

[www.italybyevents.com/en/events/lazio/chestnut-festival-soriano]

Tuscany boasts many village celebrations held in honour of chestnuts - for centuries a staple food for people living in the Tuscan mountains.  They include:

 

Marradi  A celebration has been held here for the last 56 years. Events scheduled for the weekends of 11th, 18th & 25th October 2020 were all cancelled.

Event/dates for 2021 to be confirmed

http://lnx.pro-marradi.it/sagra-delle-castagne-marradi]

The Crastatone is the name of the Sagra that takes place in the village of Piancastagnaio, in the Monte Ariata region, said to be the oldest of all Tuscan chestnut festivals.  The name is derived from the verb "crastare” which in local dialect), refers to slicing across the top of a chestnut before roasting it.

 

It has traditionally been held each year at the end of October/beginning of November. [www.prolocopiancastagnaio.it/il-crastatone]

[https://lovefromtuscany.com/chestnut-festivals-in-tuscany]

[https://www.italybyevents.com/en/events/tuscany/crastatone-piancastagnaio-chestnut]

Campiglia d'Orcia  The Festa del Marrone is scheduled to take place on the last Sunday in October 2021.

http://www.campigliadorcia.it/joomla/la-festa-del-marrone

 

Vivo d'Orcia - Has been holding a chestnut and mushroom festival on the 2nd Sunday and 3rd weekend of October. [www.parcodellavaldorcia.com/en/events/sagra-del-fungo-e-della-castagna]

Caprese Michelangelo - Festa del Marrone.  Last two weekends of October.  Three different varieties of chestnut are distinguished here. In recognition of its qualities the "Caprese Michelangelo marrone chestnut" was awarded the “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” in 2009.

[www.valtiberinaintoscana.it/marrone_DOP_en], &

[www.visittuscany.com/en/ideas/chestnut-festivals-in-tuscany]

[https://www.terradimichelangelo.com/castagne-marrone-caprese.php]

[https://lovefromtuscany.com/chestnut-festivals-in-tuscany/]

The Treviso province of the Veneto region has also held many events in October for many decades - for example:

 

Combai [www.venetoinside.com/events-in-veneto/event/chestnut-festival-combai-igp]   as well as Tarzo, Pederobba - Monferena and Follina  [www.trevisoinfo.com/chestnuts.htm]

Also in the Veneto region is the Sagra dei Maroni held in Teolo.

In Umbria traditional festivals have been held in Preggio since 1965 - generally on the 2nd or 3rd week of October.

[www.umbria.com/en/50-chestnut-festival]

In the province of Trentino in the Italian Alps, the Festa della Castagna in Roncegno Terme, celebrated for over 40 years, is usually held towards the end of October.

[https://www.visitvalsugana.it/en/events-and-activities/41-chestnut-festival_941_ide/]

In the region of Emilia Romagna in northern Italy the Sagra del Marrone has traditionally been held since 1946 in Castel del Rio every Sunday in October. [https://emiliaromagnaturismo.it/en/towns/castel-del-rio]

 
SARDINIA (ITALY)

Aritzo, in central Sardinia, the region known as Barbagia - the Sagra delle Castagne has been traditionally held during the last week of October

[www.paradisola.it/sagre-sardegna/autunno-in-barbagia/5740-aritzo-sagra-castagne]

 
SICILY (ITALY)
Chestnuts are also celebrated in October in Sicily, for example in:
Palermo province
Mezzojuso - usually the last weekend in October

[www.siciliainfesta.com]

Messina province

Antillo - the celbration here was begun in 1999

[www.siciliainfesta.com]

Montagnareale - the Sagra della Castagna

[www.siciliainfesta.com]

 

Catania province

Trecastagni - usually each weekend in October

[www.siciliainfesta.com]

 
FRANCE
Alpes-Maritimes

Fête des Châtaignes beginning in October, running into November have become a feature of many villages of the Alpes-Maritimes area of France.

 

Provence

Collobrières and La Garde-Freinet, two villages in Provence, the department of Var, which 'regards itself as chestnut capital of the world', is also known for its Fêtes de la Châtaigne, held in October. The focus of the festivals, as in most others, is a market selling or displaying different kinds of chestnut produce.  [https://rove.me/to/provence-french-riviera/chestnut-season-and-fete-de-la-chataigne; and

[www.seeprovence.com/events/chestnut-festival-collobrieres-699506] 

 

The dates set for the 38th Chestnut festival in Collobrières in 2021 are Sunday 17th, 24th and 31st October.

]https://static.apidae-tourisme.com/filestore/objets-touristiques/documents/180/100/11101364.pdf]

Ardeche

Saint-Pierreville & many other villages in the Ardeche region hold a annual festivals dedicated to chestnuts, collectively known as Les Castagnades. This region is said to account for half of all French chestnut production and so (like areas of Provence) is regarded as its most important in this regard. Celebrations were cancelled for 2020 but from mid-October to mid-November the region is hosting 11 celebrations throughout October and into November 2021, see:

[https://www.castagnades.fr/2021/07/02/les-castagnades-2021/]

[https://www.castanea-ardeche.com/castagnades.html]

 
Occitanie 
Mourjou, the Lot Valley  

In decline since the 1950s, in 1990, a group of young people from Mourjou decided to create a “Chestnut festival” to revive traditions of the Châtaigneraie cantalienne and promote the area. A success from the start it regularly attracted more than 20.000 visitors during the week-end of celebrations.

[www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2012/10/12/take-a-bite-of-rustic-france-at-the-annual-mourjou-chestnut-festival]

 

Due to the pandemic, the traditional Mourjou chestnut fair, has been replaced with a market, the Marche de la Chataigne to be held on Sunday 24th October 2021

[www.foirechataignemourjou.fr]

 
GREECE
CRETE
Elos Chestnut Festival, near Kissamos, western Crete
Each year at the end of October/early November

'One of the most eccentric events on the Cretan calendar is the Chestnut Festival which takes place in October each year. The festival marks the arrival of the autumn. Locals and visitors gather in the town of Elos to celebrate the day dedicated to the wonderful delicacies and dishes made with chestnut'.

The date of the festival is partly determined by the weather and announced shortly before the event.

[https://www.vintagetravel.co.uk/blog/autumn-on-crete-the-elos-chestnut-festival/]

[https://www.cretetravel.com/en/event/1/Chestnut_Festival_Elos]

a few notes about chestnuts ...

The sweet chestnut is native to an area that extends 

from the Balkan Peninsula to northern Iran (1), but is widely grown and naturalized elsewhere and has been cultivated for more than two thousand years for its nutritious nuts. 

 

Generally believed to have been introduced to the British Isles by the Romans (2), chestnuts - nutritionally similar to wheat, except for their lack of gluten and with a high starch content - were once a staple food in parts of Europe.  Eaten fresh, boiled or roasted or dried and ground into flour, high in calories and fibre and rich in vitamin C, they have been turned into or used to produce a wide variety of foods including marrons glaces, fritters, preserves, pies, cakes, jams, soups, polenta, beer, liqueurs and ice cream.

A source of great local pride, ITALY - where chestnuts have played an important part in much local cuisine, especially in mountainous areas or when access to other foods was difficult - recognizes (as do other producers), a number of different cultivated varieties as well as types with particular characteristics.

Referring just to the Tuscan region the 'Mountain Union of Municipalities of Valtiberina Toscana' explains that it is not 'wild' chestnut trees but those resulting from grafts that have long produced chestnut varieties that are so highly valued: 'Since ancient times, in the Caprese area there have been three types of grafts: the "Raggiolana", now almost disappeared, the "pistolese", very small but very sweet, excellent for making flour, and the highly prized "marrone", an [excellent product] of Caprese Michelangelo. Unlike the marrone of other geographical areas, that of Caprese is smaller and with more marked and intense color streaks. Even the flavour, however, is much more intense, tending more to the sweet.' [www.valtiberinaintoscana.it/marrone_DOP_en]

'Celebrating Italy', published in 1990 (3), distinguishes marroni and castagne, explaining that 'Marroni are richer, more flavorful, and generally become marrons glaces preserved in sugar syrup or are baked into Monte Bianco, a rich cake shaped like the fountain for which it is named'. The author refers to different names given to chestnuts in Tuscany depending on how they are cooked for example, bruciate roasted and ballote boiled, and that they are also made into castagnaccio 'a flat country cake made of chestnut flour and sprinkled with pine nuts' as well as necci -'hot chestnut crepes filled with fresh ricotta or pecorino cheese'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In FRANCE where 'châtaignes are prized by gourmets and chefs alike', and turned into 'sweets and desserts, drinks and savoury dishes ...half of all French chestnut production comes from Ardèche, which grows 65 varieties of tree. Nuts are harvested through October and November, either by hand, or using nets and a vacuum separator which opens the burrs and grades nuts by size into sacks'

[www.francetoday.com/food-drink/france-chestnut-mecca]

 

The website above recommends: 'To gen up on Ardèche’s precious châtaigne, head to Castanea in the medieval heart of Joyeuse. Located in a former convent, this interactive museum, which reopened last summer after a major makeover, introduces visitors to traditional growing methods and equipment, before moving on to today’s processes of harvesting the area’s signature product.  Don’t know your châtaigne from your marron? Whilst both the same fruit, the term marron indicates a big chestnut formed from a single kernel, as used in marrons glacés. First recorded on aristocratic tables in the 17th century, marrons glacés were pioneered on an industrial scale at the turn of the 20th century by Ardèchois producers Clément Faugier, Sabaton and Imbert. Smaller chestnuts go into jam or puree or are ground into flour, a popular store cupboard staple for gluten-free foodies. Ready for a sampling spree? Don’t miss the annual Les Castagnades chestnut festival at Saint-Pierreville' 

[www.francetoday.com/food-drink/france-chestnut-mecca]

Sources:

1. www.plantsoftheworldonline.org

2. 'Sweet Chestnut: History, Landscape, People',  Chris Howkins, 2003

3. 'Celebrating Italy', Carol Field, 1990, p 494

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Pigs roam freely, foraging for chestnuts in woodland surrounding the village of Evisa, Corsica