As we move deeper into autumn, seasonal foods like chestnuts become more and more prevalent, not only at your local markets, but also, depending where you live, at local parks and forests. What could be more Paleo than actually going into nature and foraging for your own wild food like our hunter-gatherer ancestors?
Sweet chestnut trees are easy to identify by their broad, slender leaves with serrated edges. The outer shells around the nuts are spikey, resembling little green hedgehogs. Horse chestnuts, on the other hand, have short, stumpy spines and more rounded leaves.
The best time to go foraging for chestnuts is early in the morning after a stormy night. Storms and strong winds bring chestnuts to the ground and your early morning arrival means you’ll beat the squirrels to the punch. To remove the chestnuts from their spiky outer shells, simply roll them under your shoe, applying moderate pressure.
Of course, this recipe works just as well if you prefer “foraging” at your local supermarket or farmers market. You can use fresh chestnuts or precooked, vacuum packed chestnuts.
You can cook the chestnuts in one of two ways—roasting, which lends more fragrance and nuttiness, or boiling. In either case, you’ll need to cut slits on each chestnut beforehand, an absolutely essential step to cook them properly. For oven roasting, these slits serve as steam vents. If you don’t make the slits, the chestnuts can become mini bombs, exploding inside your oven and potentially outside, after you remove them. Trust us, this is not a clean up job.
- 25 chestnuts
- 2 parsnips
- 1 leek
- 2 tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
- 1in piece of ginger, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, pressed
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Freshly milled black pepper
If using vacuum packed chestnuts, skip steps 1 – 3.
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.