Some of the yummiest foods are those that are only available fresh for a short season. The wait for the annual harvest piques our tastebuds. Chestnuts fit this category, with a relatively short season of late March – May in the Southern Tablelands.
As the weather starts to cool down, the aroma of roasting chestnuts evokes cosy firesides and rich winter menus. Chestnut are a superfood, being low in oil and fat content, with very high levels of vitamins C and E and folate.
In Europe the tradition of gathering chestnut in the forests, like picking mushrooms and searching for truffles, is part of the winter ritual. Chestnuts also play a big part in Asian cooking an are highly sort after during the season.
Chestnuts were brought to Australia in the 1850s and the wave of southern European migrants in the mid-20th century saw chestnut trees planted in cooler zones throughout Australia. There are now around 300 commercial growers across Australia with three quarters of the approximately 1,200 tonnes harvested coming from north east Victoria. Varieties include Buffalo Queen, Bouche de Betizac, Red Spanish, De Coppi Marone and Purtons Pride.
Australian Chestnuts are unusual in that the crop falls naturally to the ground when mature and they need to be collected within two days of them falling.
Near Canberra there are two options for an easy daytrip to join in the Autumn fun.
Tweenhills Chestnuts offer a ‘Pick Your Own’ experience as well as farm gate sales throughout April.
The family operated chestnut orchard at Hoskinstown, was established by John and Heather Kane 30 years ago, and now has 1,200 grafted trees on 10ha., specialising in an Italian style chestnut, De Coppi Marone.
You can try your hand at the picking your own chestnuts or ready to go picked and graded Chestnuts are also available. Buckets for gathering chestnuts and bags for packaging will be provided. Wear sturdy shoes and bring thick gardening gloves– the burrs are spikey! Weatherproof clothing is also recommended.
If you can’t make it out to the orchard, Tweenhills also supply through their red van at the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets, 9:00 am until 4:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Heather Kane says it has been a busy season despite the dry and windy weather. Heather says most of the weekend visitors come from Canberra, with a strong demand from the Asian community for the sweet fresh nuts.
A little further field is Sassafras Nuts in the Budawang Ranges on the Braidwood to Nowra Road (MR92). The farm was started in the 1980s and has over 1000 chestnut trees specialising in Sassafras Reds, as well as walnuts. Owned by Alison and Richard Moxham, the farm is open Saturday – Sunday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday by appointment only 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
It has been unseasonable dry with a light crop this year, but Alison says, “what has been lost in quantity has been made up with quality with a really good size.”
The farm also has a farm gate shop and offers several value-added products including hand crafter chestnut knives, chestnut flour and chestnut puree.”
The farm has been very busy already and expects to have finished the pick your own visits by Anzac Day.
Alison notes that the popularity of the farm has expanded from the usual Greek, Italian and Spanish visitors to Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans.
For bookings phone 4423 2248. The farm offers picnic facilities and barbeque areas. Entrance is free and sales are cash only.
Hoskinstown Chestnut Roast
The height of the local chestnut season comes with the Hoskinstown Chestnut Roast – held annually on Mothers’ Day – this year on Sunday 13 May from 10 am – 3 pm. Supported by Tweenhills Chestnuts the Hoskinstown Chestnut Roast started in 2011. It’s a fun and free day out for all the family with cooking demonstrations with chestnuts, watch scones being made in the kitchen and sample goodies from gourmet food stalls. Local produce, coffee and hot food will be available for sale.
All funds raised go towards the upkeep of the Hoskinstown War Memorial Hall. Hoskinstown is about 20 minutes from Bungendore (towards Captain’s Flat), or about 20 minutes from Queanbeyan (again, towards Captain’s Flat). There will be lots of signs pointing the way.
When baking, microwaving or roasting, firstly cut a shallow cross into the flat side of the shell. This prevents the nut from overheating and bursting while cooking.
When boiling, cut the Chestnuts in half across the width of the Chestnut before cooking.
Fresh Chestnuts can be refrigerated in a paper bag in the crisper for 2 to 3 days or in an airtight container for up to 10 days.
Fresh Chestnuts are best if consumed within three weeks of purchase.
Cooked Chestnuts can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Peeled and unpeeled Chestnuts store perfectly in the freezer for year-round goodness.
One kilogram of chestnuts yields approximately 700g of peeled chestnuts.
Chestnuts are said to have incredible health benefits, which is found in the chestnut’s pellicle, or inner skin.
New Zealand scientist, Dr David Klinac has found that the pellicle offers a variety of useful health-related effects: anti-oxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-allergic and anti-amnesic just for starters.
“Research shows the pellicle scores better in controlled test situations carried out overseas than many other “healthy” foods and plant extracts (including a wide range of fruit, vegetables and mushrooms) with regard to diabetes and obesity, in particular. Recent analyses carried out by the New Zealand Chestnut Council have shown that chestnut pellicle has an especially high condensed tannin content, which has been shown in overseas studies to have beneficial cardio-protective, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-glycemic effects and has also proven useful in lowering blood glucose levels,” Dr Klinac said.
89 Pollack Road, Hoskinstown NSW 2621
Phone 02 6238 2280 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday to Sunday 10 am – 3 pm (Last entry 2:30 pm) until Sunday 29 April.
Tweenhills Chestnuts is just 20 minutes east of Queanbeyan, on the way to Captains Flat or just 20 minutes south of Bungendore. Payment is by cash only- no credit card or EFTPOS facilities.
Groups are welcome – Bookings are Essential – To arrange a time, please call. Large groups (20-50 people) can be accommodated on Wednesday or Thursday, by appointment. Sorry – no dogs allowed and no picnics.
There are limited toilet facilities are available. Please make suitable arrangements before arriving at our farm. The nearest public toilets are in Queanbeyan and Bungendore.
4281 Braidwood Rd (MR92), Sassafras. (From Braidwood take the directions to Nerriga then keep going for another 20kms. Note: there is 18 km of unsealed section of this road between Braidwood and Nerriga). OPENING HOURS Saturday – Sunday 8.00 am – 4.00pm (Bookings recommended)
Monday to Friday by appointment only 10.00 am to 3.00 pm Until 28 April.
Telephone 02 4423 2248 Please note – Opening hours are subject to bookings and may change at short notice due to wet weather. Please ring before traveling if weather conditions are likely to be poor.
NOTE – Due to the light season it is best to ring and book.