marroni chestnuts

Chestnuts 013Last year at this time I collected acorns down in West Park, brought them home, put them in a saucer and photographed them on my dining room table. (I left them on the saucer for a few days, and when I came back, a small white worm had eaten its way out of an acorn and died on the table cloth leaving a white stain that I have not been able to remove.)

This year, I went with Marroni chestnuts as the autumn indicators. I found the term Marroni in a rhyme on a Calabrian Facebook page; discovered that it was a variety of chestnut that grows all over Calabria. I also found a farm in California that has started growing Marronis and that October was harvest season. I ordered 4 pounds. They’re in the refrigerator and every day I’ve been eating a handful. I like them best raw, but this weekend I’ll roast some. The storage directions suggest keeping them in a cold place until ready to eat them. This will prevent them drying out. When I told my dad this he laughed. They never keep them in the frig.(I can just hear him going on about i ciuti americani putting chestnuts in the frig – crazy americans …)

The Marroni were mentioned in writings of Homer and Pliny and cultivated throughout the mountains of Calabria. In the early 1900’s, the economy of Aprigliano was based on the Marroni chestnut. Hog farmers from Cosenza would bring up the animals to Aprigliano and let them graze on the fallen chestnuts. They would pay the Apriglianesi land owners a grazing fee for each hog in the drove.