Chestnuts in Switzerland


Today is the last installment in my top 5 things to do in Switzerland this autumn. We’ve discovered everything from pumpkins to castles, hiking to fog and today I will leave you with the last of my favorite things about autumn, chestnuts. 

Chestnuts are definitely a big part of the Swiss Autumn season. As soon as the cooler weather appears, roasted chestnut stands pop up around the towns and cities of Switzerland. For around 7chf, you can pick up a bag of freshly roasted chestnuts which can warm even the coldest of hands.

Chestnuts also feature prominently in great desserts such as vemicelles - a pureed chestnut mousse often served with meringues and cream. Chestnuts are also part of many autumn dishes as an accompaniment to game. My favorite is the vegetarian dish - “Wild ohne wild” (which translates to “game without the game!”)   This dish includes all the yummy side dishes you’d expect with a game main dish such as spatzli, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, poached pear and of course, chestnuts! 

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We are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating chestnuts with every restaurant and bakery sharing their own take on this famous nut. But what about collecting the nuts yourself?!

While not as commonly found on the north side of the Alps, the chestnut tree flourishes in Ticino, and is another great reason to head south when the weather on the north side of the Alps isn’t cooperating. The sweet chestnut used to be one of the staple foods of Canton Ticino until the early Middle Ages, and it was used to make flour to make many different dishes.

If you would like to try your hand in collecting your own chestnuts, you can simply head into the forests and collect the chestnuts that litter the forest floor.  But don’t forget to bring an empty backpack! Be sure that you don’t mix them up though with the horse chestnut (also known as a conker) as they are inedible. The big difference is that the sweet chestnut that is safe to eat comes in a spiny husk that hurts when you touch it. Here is a great article from the Michigan State University stating the differences. 

If you don’t want to collect chestnuts yourself, they are readily found in the supermarket or at the farmer’s market during the season. They come both in the shell and unprepared as well as vacuumed sealed and ready to use. 

If you want to roast them yourself, make sure you very carefully slit the chestnut with a sharp knife to allow for them to expand in the oven or bbq, and roast them on a tray with holes on low, turning them often, until they are ready, (usually around 10 minutes). Check for foul chestnuts and discard before digging in. 

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If all this talk of chestnuts has made you hungry, why not head to the lakeside in Ascona on the 7th October for the annual Chestnut festival? Try some of the 2000kg chestnuts being roasted over the fire or try local chestnut specialties such as cakes and jams. On the following weekend, 14th October, they will hold their annual autumn festival where chestnuts will feature again. 

Ascona isn’t the only location to celebrate the humble chestnut, and to find a festival near you check out My Switzerlands Chestnut festival list

Whats your favourite way to enjoy chestnuts? Have you ever collected them yourself? Do you have a chestnut forest you like to visit?

And with that, I finish my special in depth look into Swiss autumn. A big thank you to Hello Switzerland for featuring my Top 5 autumn activities in their quarterly magazine. I would love to hear from you and what your favourite thing to do is Autumn!