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TURKISH CHESTNUT

The sweet chestnut grows throughout the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, and there are sixteen different species altogether, that native to Turkey being Castanea sativa, or the Anatolian chestnut. Chestnut trees are found all along Turkey's northern coast, and in the northwest region as far as the Aegean. The finest variety is that which grows in the province of Bursa, and this tree was introduced to Greece in ancient times, spreading from there to Italy and other Mediterranean countries.

Chestnut trees have a long life of up to 500 years and grow to a height of 30 meters, making them one of the most magnificent of Turkey's forest trees. Its dark coloured durable timber has traditionally been used for building houses and furniture such as the solid and capacious trousseau chests in which our grandmothers stored their most treasured belongings and keepsakes. Chestnut wood was also used for boat building.

The fruit of the chestnut ripens in October and November, but the trees do not give them up easily. They are gathered before they fall to the ground by striking the fruits with long poles, and then come the job of removing the thorny armour enclosing them. To do this the chestnuts are buried for a few days, after which the shell is easily removed, revealing the glossy nuts in their full splendour. Candied chestnuts are a mouthwatering delicacy produced in large quantities in Bursa, and with not much trouble can be made at home. After removing the outer peel the chestnuts are blanched to remove the skin. These are now placed in syrup and cooked over a low heat, keeping the temperature just below boiling point, for two hours before setting them aside to cool. Probably the most difficult part of the process is preventing the younger members of the family from eating the chestnuts as they are peeled! Chestnuts also go well with several meat dishes, and of course as a stuffing for turkeys at New Year, not to mention wonderful chestnut cakes of different varieties. Chestnuts are an energy rich and nutritious food containing starch, sucrose, protein and tannin, and are especially valuable for growing children. A tisane prepared from the shells is used as a herbal remedy for reducing fever and calming the nerves. The nuts themselves improve the circulation and strengthen the muscles. In the villages of the Black Sea region baskets are woven from supple young chestnut twigs, and honey made by bees from the nectar of chestnut flowers is one of the most fragrant varieties.

Reference: Skylife/Baris Dogru

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