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MY ISTRIA GUIDE

Chestnuts - an additional reason to visit Istria & Kvarner in colorful autumn

Chestnuts - an additional reason to visit Istria & Kvarner in colorful autumn

Time of the sweet chestnuts - enjoy them in Istria & Kvarner!

Even when the summer is over and the next one still far out of sight, there are still plenty of reasons to come to Croatia, and spend a magnificent autumn break in one of our beautiful villas with pool in Istria or the Kvarner Region.

Autumn is a vivid time of the year, with manifestations and festivals, as nature is bountiful in fruits and many delicacies. The chestnut is definitely one of autumn's highlights :) The prickly peel hides a truly versatile delicacy!

The chestnut tree provides us with these magnificent nuts, which might evoke childhood memories in many of us, and warm feelings from remembering roasting this delicacy on coldish autumn evenings. To be noted, that wild (horse) chestnuts are not edible for humans, as opposed to the “cultivated” edible ones.

roasted-sweet-chestnuts-in-a-cast-iron-pan-on-a-wooden-table-with-fresh-chestnuts-around

However, not to limit the abundant qualities of the chestnut just to roasting (even though I prefer this variety of it the most :) let me mention a few more facts about this delightful nut.

Chestnut forests are well represented in Croatia and extend mainly along the entire continental Croatia and throughout Istria and Kvarner region.

In some regions in Croatia you will hear them called maruni, which is a variety of cultivated chestnuts, lighter in colour than ordinary chestnuts, bigger and usually sweeter.

Due to its abundance and quality, chestnuts have left a strong mark in the gastronomy of the areas where they thrive. To mention the health aspect of the chestnut - it is nutritionally high-value food and even contains a lot of vitamin C. They are used from ancient times in preparing various dishes, roasted or cooked as a standalone dish or prepared as a puree (kesten pire), in soups, fillings, as an addition to various cakes, desserts and side-dishes. It is also used to make honey and flour. Since it does not contain gluten, it can be used to prepare gluten-free food. Did you know, that in the past roasted and then ground chestnuts served even as a coffee substitute? You might want to try it!

an-open-glass-filled-with-honey-with-honeyspoon-and-fresh-chestnuts-next-to-it-on-a-wooden-table

A special chestnut variety (maruni ) grows only on the slopes of Ucka mountain range on the eastern side of the Istrian peninsula, mostly in the areas around Opatija, Lovran and Moscenicka Draga.
The small town of Lovran, close to the sea and in the vicinity of Opatija, is especially known for its quality chestnuts, which originate from crossing domestic wild chestnuts and seedlings brought by Lovran sailors from some of the countries of the Far East, probably from Japan. Due to its quality, they had been exported since the 17th century and reached popularity in the 19th century - chestnut produce from this area was sought after in Italy, Germany and Austria.

If you are spending your holiday in the Kvarner region during October, be sure to visit Marunada, the traditional Lovran Chestnut Festival, one of the most famous of its kind in Croatia, since 1973. Besides trying out so many varieties of chestnuts, in sweets, savoury dishes, or just roasted - there is folklore, sports events and other traditional specialties of this area. It is even known internationally and listed in the British The Guardian, as one of the gastronomic events that should not be missed.

Another chestnut related event worth visiting while in Istria, is definitely the Kestenijada (kesten meaning chestnut in Croatian), held also in October in the small hilltop town of Oprtalj, in northwestern Istria. Oprtalj is also known as the Town of Chestnuts. The surrounding area is abundant with chestnut forests (locally called kastanji). The chestnuts from these forests are smaller in size than the maruni in Lovran, but are said to be sweeter :)

village-on-the-top-of-a-hill-surrounded-by-beautiful-landscape-by-sunset-in-autumn

Kestenijada is a traditional event dedicated to the chestnut and its produce, various cakes, honey. Alongside there are various entertainment programs for children and music.

For a simple but delicious chestnut gourmet experience, I would suggest roasting /baking them: you can roast them in the oven or in a pan. Ripe chestnuts need to be cut so that they do not burst during baking and so that they can be peeled off more easily later. Just make a small incision across the chestnut. For baking in the oven, first put them in cold water and boil them in salt water for a bit. Then put them in the oven for 20 min. When they are done (once they are dry) take them out and put them in a dry dish-cloth for about 15 min - this way you will be able to peel them better :) If you want to use a pan - same procedure, without previously boiling them. You can cover the pan or not.

Cooking the chestnuts will give you the main ingredient for the heavenly dessert “kesten pire (chestnut puree): Put them in a pot with cold water (just enough to cover the chestnuts), add a little salt and put on the stove to cook for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the chestnuts. Blend the cooked chestnuts with some sirup made from water and sugar, add some vanilla flavour and rum if you like. Puree it, put into small bowls and add some whipped cream on top. Delicious!

Chestnut picking is an ideal fun activity for the whole family or a group of friends, while spending your autumn holiday in one of our villas with pool in Central Istria or the Kvarner region. Imagine roasting your handpicked chestnuts in the villa of your choice, on a magical autumn evening, beneath the stars. Wouldn't this be a good choice for your autumn holiday in Croatia? :)


Natalie Sipak

30.9.2022
 
+385 1 222 70 50