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Sweet Chestnut

All Areas > Food & Drink > Wild Food Foraging

Author: Steven Hawley, Posted: Saturday, 24th October 2015, 08:00

Soft yellow light flickers over foliage a few feet away. An owl hoots its irritation when a nearby friend chuckles a little too loudly as she passes you an ice-cold beer to help with the intense heat of the campfire. Then, nestled like an egg in a folded napkin, a steaming hot roasted Sweet Chestnut is placed in your remaining free palm. The most important problem on your mind at that moment is which hand you should attend to first.

Like a lot of foraged food, especially at this time of year, the Sweet Chestnut is about the experience of being snuggled up with friends and loved ones rather than the supplement to your weekly shop. What better way to spend a frosty November afternoon than hiking through a woodland with mates while you all keep an eye out for a Sweet Chestnut tree to help down a couple of cold ones later that evening?

Imagine that it looks like a tiny green hedgehog
Finding your first Sweet Chestnut tree is like finding twenty quid you never thought you had, so I strongly recommend you make a mental note of where it is. I quite often stumble over places to forage by accident and have forgotten where they are shortly after returning home.

Not to be confused with the Horse Chestnut (conker), the Sweet Chestnut has a pointed tip unlike a conker. The hard-outer shell, the green spiky bit, also has a lot more spines than the Horse Chestnut. Imagine that a Sweet Chestnut looks like a tiny green hedgehog whereas the conker looks like a World War Two sea mine with fewer, harder spines. Don’t eat a conker... You will require a trip to the doctors if you do!

Roast them on an open fire, peel and enjoy with friends. If an open fire isn’t available to you, whack them in the oven on about 180°C until they are hot all the way through.

If you’re not 100% sure that the plant you’re picking is safe for human consumption, don’t pick it. If you’re prone to food allergies, or pregnant, always seek medical advice before consuming anything foraged in the wild.

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