The rise in popularity of Asian-inspired cooking means Australian chestnuts are set to become an essential ingredient on the New Year menu.
A favoured ingredient in many Asian dishes, Australians are set to be inspired by the subtly sweet and versatile chestnut, with the season kicking off in the New Year.
They are believed to have been brought into Australia by migrants during the Gold Rush of the 1850s – therefore have grown in Australia for more than 150 years.
Today, the industry is characterised by a large number of small, family-owned farms, with approximately 300 growers producing 1500 tonnes per year.
Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are low in calories and cholesterol free. Low in GI, chestnuts are digested slowly; keeping the body satisfied for longer. They are also a great source of vitamins C, B1 and B2 and are gluten free.
Australian grower, Jane Casey says there are many more ways to enjoy chestnuts than simply roasting them.
“Australians with Asian backgrounds consume twice as many chestnuts as those with a European background, so it’s no surprise that chestnuts are a great addition to many Asian dishes, such as stir-fried noodles and fresh spring rolls,” says Jane.
“Preparing and cooking chestnuts is an easy, no fuss process. Many Australians don’t realise that even the pellicle, which is the soft inner shell of the chestnut, can be left on and eaten; adding another layer of flavour and texture to a dish.
“Once cooked, chestnuts’ creamy-white flesh is similar in texture to a baked potato; soft and crumbly. The sweet, nutty, yet subtle flavour of chestnuts can be used in a variety of both savoury and sweet dishes.”
When selecting chestnuts, look for nuts that feel heavy for their size, with undamaged, firm shells. To avoid chestnuts drying out, store in an airtight container, paper bag or perforated plastic bag in the crisper compartment of the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Chestnuts are available from supermarkets and independent grocers in the fresh produce section. Chestnuts are ideally grown in areas that are hot in summer and cold in winter.
Australia’s chestnut farms are situated in areas such as North East Victoria; the Dandenongs outside Melbourne; Batlow and The Southern Tablelands in New South Wales; the Adelaide Hills in South Australia; and Manjimup in Western Australia.
This week on Bmag we will be featuring a delicious chestnut recipe everyday – starting with Chestnut & Chicken Springrolls!