Chestnut picking in the Southern Highlands

Chestnuts peaking out of its thorny shells

Chestnuts peaking out of its thorny shells

“It’s a glorious autumn day, what are we going to do?”, Mysaucepan summons urgently.

We are at the Southern Highlands during the Easter break for a second year in a row. We conjour beautiful memories of our Southern Highlands trip last year and Mysaucepan is determined to go chestnut picking this year.

I have never gone foraging before and the thought of wandering about in the forest brings me back to fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood during my childhood.

A glorious autumn day in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales

A glorious autumn day in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales

After a drive of about forty minutes from Moss Vale where we are spending a few days in a beautiful log cabin, we arrive at a beautiful farm, where eager foragers are gathered to rummage through the grounds in search of those thorny husks that hold three brown kernels inside.

Chestnuts galore: Thread with caution

Chestnuts galore: Thread with caution

These thorny kernels are scattered all over the grounds and we are told the chestnut picking season only lasts for about six weeks during autumn.

A family affair: Children should be supervised when picking chestnuts

A family affair: Children should be supervised when picking chestnuts

We don protective gloves to keep those prickly spikes at bay and set out to gather all these chestnuts littered on the grounds of the farm.

Chestnut inside its thorny husk

Chestnut inside its thorny husk

The brown husks are ripened and they peel off quite easily to reveal three chestnut pods inside. Each forager, ranging from cute little kiddies with their parents to the more experienced is carrying a bucket to collect all the chestnuts.

"This could get heavy, so many chestnuts to pick!!"

"This could get heavy, so many chestnuts to pick!!"

It is fun because you get to do a little exercise and you only pay for what you collect when your bucket is eventually weighed.

Raw chestnuts in a bucket

Raw chestnuts in a bucket

We managed to collect about three kilograms of chestnuts, where each kilogram costs $6.90.

Chestnut tree, Southern Highlands, New South Wales

Chestnut tree, Southern Highlands, New South Wales

Hatch Cottage in Moss Vale, Southern Highlands

Hatch Cottage in Moss Vale, Southern Highlands

I managed to get a log fire going in our cabin just before we went chestnut picking and by the time we arrived back home, the fireplace is toasty and inviting after a cool day out in the open.

Cosy fireplace in a log cabin

Cosy fireplace in a log cabin

To roast the chestnuts, I make a cross incision into the hard shell with a sharp paring knife. This incision allows moisture to escape so that these chestnuts don’t explode during the roasting process.

It is a warm and cosy log cabin and in no time, we can smell the nutty aromas of our chestnuts roasting over a open cast iron pan in the fireplace.

Roasted chestnuts on a cast iron pan

Roasted chestnuts on a cast iron pan

Just as well we got back in time for happy hour and witness a beautiful sunset amid the tranquility of this 40-acre farmland.

The fruits of our labour ~ roasted chestnuts on a beautiful farm

The fruits of our labour ~ roasted chestnuts on a beautiful farm

Roasted chestnut

Roasted chestnut

The chestnuts are easy to peel and there are two layers – the hard shell on the outside and a thin inner skin.

Happy hour drinks with roasted chestnuts

Happy hour drinks with roasted chestnuts

These roasted chestnuts are smoky with a nutty and buttery texture. I could eat so many of these with a few scotches on the rocks while gazing into the sunset with Mysaucepan.

Roasted chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts

Sunset by Hatch Cottage, Moss Vale, Southern Highlands

Sunset by Hatch Cottage, Moss Vale, Southern Highlands

It has been a beautiful day out in the Southern Highlands and with the sun setting in the horizon, even the cows are coming home.

Stay tuned for more blogposts about our Southern Highlands trip this year.

So dear readers, would you forage the forest floor for edible goodies and if so, what would you be looking for?

~~~~~~0~~~~~~

Using Chestnuts

Buying:

The chestnuts are fresh when they are firm and can be slightly dented to gentle thumb pressure. 

Storage:

Chestnuts should be stored in the refrigerator in partially closed container.  Depending on their condition when purchased, they can be stored for up to about a week.

To cook:

The most popular way to eat chestnuts is to roast or grill. Carefully make a cross incision on the hard outer shell with a sharp knife to release heat pressure while cooking. Cook for between 25 – 30 minutes on medium heat, gently turning halfway through. Remove from heat and let cool. 

For chestnut recipes, visit www.chestnutsaustralia.com.au.

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32 Responses to Chestnut picking in the Southern Highlands

  1. I have never seen chestnuts in their raw form before. Looks like you had a great time!

  2. Chopinand, looks like a fantastic day out! We love foraging too, but around here there is not much to forage, but for the occasional ripe fig deliciously hanging over a fence. We figure, what’s yours is ours, right?

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Lizzy,

      By common law, the fruit that hangs over from your neighbour’s tree into your property belongs to you, unless it is so high up in air space that it is common property for all.

  3. I love roasted chestnuts. They are so sweet and buttery.

    I’d like to go chestnut foraging one day. Or maybe even do some mushroom hunting.

  4. Jaded says:

    Ah, chestnuts… must be autumn!

  5. Those furry (spikey) nuts on the ground look like miniature hedgehogs! You go on such wonderful adventures!

  6. Hotly Spiced says:

    What a wonderful day out. The weather and the setting and the foraging all look perfect – as does that welcoming log fire. I have never foraged for chestnuts but I would love to have that experience and I would like to try roasting them over an open fire like they say in all the Christmas carols. I have gone berry picking and I loved it!

    Oh, and in your last comment you asked me about the real estate blog I subscribe to and I’m so sorry I forgot to get back to you. Here’s the latest post:

    http://www.rwm.com.au/2012/04/some-economic-data-in-australia-is-dysfunctional/

  7. What a great experience. I’ve eaten them but I’ve never gone to pick them up myself.

    I’m dreaming of my favorite chicken and chestnut soup.

  8. Looks like so much fun! I love freshly roasted chestnuts, and eating the ones you’ve picked yourself is so rewarding :)

  9. Winston says:

    Oh wow chestnut picking, SIGN ME UP! I know it’s prolly sth not a lot of my friends my age are keen on, but sign me up. I like working hard to forage/catch my food just to be able to savour it so much more when it’s time to eat. That sign of the nice, tall glass of cold beer with roasted nuts outdoors is the dream. Hope I get to try this one day. Looking forward to more posts from your trip!

  10. Fiona Novak says:

    Chestnut picking and Hatch Cottage…they’re on my hit list now :) Looks like a great trip.. is chestnut picking confined to any particular season?

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Fiona,

      Hatch Cottage was really nice and cosy, more posts to come. The season apparently lasts for only a window of 6 weeks each year.

  11. Oh I love chesnuts! Haven’t had them for ages. I think I’ll def have to pick some up after reading this :)

  12. Beautiful!!!
    I love the pictures… God I have to say I am little jealous here, I liven a concrete jungle miss beautiful outdoors…
    I adore chestnuts… Wish someday I can too go for chestnut picking, so fun!!!

  13. JasmyneTea says:

    I love chestnuts, and picking them would have been a lovely way to while away an afternoon :)

  14. Hannah says:

    Oh, I adore roasted chestnuts so deeply, so deeply! And yet I’ve never had the courage to cook them myself, ever since my father didn’t score them once and caused an explosion all over the kitchen, roof included. I’m swooning over your experience.

  15. What a great day it looks you’ve had! We go chestnut gathering near where we live and it’s always so much fun. I love to make an annual chestnut soup each year with the bounty.

  16. Beautiful photos! I’m so impressed that you not only picked your own chestnuts, but you roasted them “on an open fire” as well! When I lived in the UK I went blackberry picking each autumn. There’s something extra delicious about food that you’ve sourced yourself. Great post!

  17. Sissi says:

    What a wonderful Autumn pastime! It’s so much fun observing your Autumn while we have Spring here ;-)

  18. Nothing tastes better than something you have harvested yourself. What a fun weekend!

  19. tigerfish says:

    Wow, I have never seen chestnuts as fresh as these! I did not even know they are spiky in the first place. :O

  20. Juliana says:

    How cool, chestnut picking…first time I’ve seen chestnut like this…I had no idea that chestnut is wrapped inside a porcupine ;-)
    Roasted chestnuts…delicious! Love the pictures…thank you so much for sharing them
    Hope you are having a fabulous week :)

  21. You have the best times! Chestnut roasted on an open fire remind me of Paris… oh how wonderful! I remember picking chestnuts as a child, and in the city there was a different, unedible variety which we would pick up, peel and play with or make “jewellery” with. Ah the memories.

  22. Charles says:

    I’ve never been a massive fan of chestnuts – I don’t mind them occasionally, cooked up in something but just roasted, on their own,… I think I had a bad experience with them when I was a small kid so I’ve kind of been off them ever since alas :(

    I love picking them though – the forest next to my apartment is full of chestnut trees – so nice in the autumn!

  23. heidi says:

    I love picking chestnuts, and windfall apples, mulberries, blackberries, elderberries, morel mushrooms, sorrel, butternuts, curly fiddlehead ferns, ramps(or wild garlic) and anything else I can find to forage. I wish I had a cabin to return to afterwards that had a view like yours- but you can’t have everything!
    Thanks for sharing- the pictures and the evocative prose!

  24. Huge chestnuts! As I wrote in my earlier comment, I have a hard time finding good chestnuts here. I think I have to give up on finding good ones in stores… I probably need to go chestnut picking like you did! I want to eat Japanese kuri (chestnut) gohan but I still can’t find perfect chestnuts for it. Wish I was there so I can make kuri gohan. :-) Enjoy seeing your autumn pictures as we are heading toward summer soon…

  25. Row says:

    Cool, I didn’t know that chestnuts were surrounded by prickly husks. When one buys them in the stores over here, the husks have already been removed. I love the taste of roasted chestnuts… so buttery!

  26. Aww. How wonderful to roast those freshly picked chestnuts in an open fire in the evening! :D

  27. Kimby says:

    What a quaint vacation spot and lovely memories in the making — can see why you enjoy going back. I always feel like I’ve been on vacation after reading your posts and seeing your pictures!

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