Chestnuts from Tuscany | Bread and butter tree
In earlier centuries, the sweet chestnut was the bread tree of the rural population.
The chestnut has been cultivated since ancient times, and it was not only in Tuscany that the tasty flour of the nuts was used to make bread. The chestnut was a blessing, especially for the mountain population, as it ensured their daily livelihood, since grain no longer grows at higher and higher altitudes, and chestnuts still thrive at altitudes above 1,000 meters. Chestnut flour, cooked into polenta, became an important staple food for the population. The leaves of the trees were used as bedding for cattle and the wood for building furniture.
The harvest began on September 29, the feast in hon- or of St. Michael the Archangel. Then people went to the woods or to the chestnut grove and collected the prickly nut shells and nuts or beat them off the trees with sticks. They were then dried in the „metati“, the kilns that can still be found in the old villages. For more than a month, people tended the drying fires day and night and dried the harvest. Harvest and drying time were important elements in the social life of the villages: wine was drunk together, food was eaten together, stories were told and everyone was involved. The dried chestnuts were then taken to the mills and from 100 kg of chestnuts about 90 kg of flour were obtained.
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