A trip to the most southwestern regions of Bulgaria and the fabulous Belasitsa mountain. There in spring the chestnut forests smell of flowers, turn green all summer, and in late autumn weigh heavily on fruit. We go to the Bulgarian homeland of sweet chestnuts to learn their delicious history. Bulgarian chestnut has an excellent taste and high sugar content, which makes it suitable for both fresh consumption and the confectionery industry.
Chestnut is a tree that gives everything for the benefit of people. The flowers are honey and from them, the bees make very fragrant, healing, and expensive honey. Chestnut flour is gluten-free, and chestnuts, whose fruits are rich in nutrients and contain as much vitamin C as lemons, are used to make hors d’oeuvres, soups, meat dishes, and pastries. Chestnut wood retains carbon dioxide longer and gives wood that is dense and light. It is used in shipbuilding and for making yachts.
The birthplace of the chestnut is the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Asia Minor, from where it later spread to Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and China. The tribes in pre-Roman Italy called it “forest bread” and thanks to it they survived the winter. Chestnuts were also the staple food of Roman legionaries. French culture from the time of Louis XIV to the present day abounds in information about chestnuts in cooking.
Corsica, the island of Napoleon Bonaparte, actually takes its name from the chestnut forests which cover it. Chestnuts are the backbone of the industry in the region, and locals are proud of their chestnut flour beer. In Tuscany, there is no restaurant without chestnuts on the menu – from chestnut soup, spaghetti, polenta, chestnut jam, to chestnut ice cream. In Monte Amiata, Italy, the chestnut harvest begins in October with celebrations. In Germany, Charlemagne issued a decree ordering the cultivation of chestnuts for food. Today, chestnuts are widespread almost everywhere in the warmer part of Europe.