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In England, the horse chestnut or conker is a much-loved tree. Its edible cousin, the sweet chestnut, is valued in winter for a turkey stuffing or a bag of nuts from the brazier, but is much less common than in wormer southern climes where it has been an actual staple of the diet of some regions, as well as a crowning delicacy of sweet shops, patisseries and charcuteries. In fact, the horse chestnut is a relative newcomer, not arriving in Europe (from its home in northern India) until the 16th century. The sweet chestnut, originating in Asia Minor, has been with us since the earliest classical time. Both species have medical healing properties: the horse chestnut is used to treat respiratory problem in horses (hence, perhaps its name) and many vascular complaints (varicose veins, poor circulation) in humans. It is an essential component of Bach's Rescue Remedy. Its wood, not much used in construction, was once widely employed in making artificial limbs. The sweet chestnut, by contrast, is a matchless timber. The trees attain great size (the trunk of the largest, in Sicily, was measured at 62 metres girth), and great age. Its importance to European diet has led to its being called l'arbre a pain by the southern French. Its high vitamin C content meant that it was a popular cure for scurvy. Most importantly, it was an essential ingredient in Italian, French and Spanish cookery. Ria Loohuizen includes about 50 recipes for things as varied as a terrine of chestnuts and wild mushrooms, a breast of duck with chestnuts, pancakes made with chestnut flour, and the famous Italian chestnut cake Castagnaccio.
Buy On Chestnuts: The Trees and Their Seeds by Ria Loohuizen, Jill Norman & Rein Dool from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781903018323 & 1903018323
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