“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We managed to collect about three kilograms of chestnuts, where each kilogram costs $6.90.
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.
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.
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 chestnuts are easy to peel and there are two layers – the hard shell on the outside and a thin inner skin.
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.
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?
The chestnuts are fresh when they are firm and can be slightly dented to gentle thumb pressure.
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.
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.