I brought old Nell along to give her some special time and as a good example for Spud to follow: Nell stays close (she's too old to go as far and as fast as she used to!) and Nell works hard in cover. Nell leads Spud into the bushes and brambles, and she passes her excitement for hunting quarry onto the pup. It was sweet to see the old showing the young how it's done. Nellie has covered some miles in her time.
I forgot how cuddly Nellie is and when I squatted down to pick nuts, this is what I got:
A lapful of dog.
I managed to pick the nuts she wasn't sat on and came back with two tired dogs and a little haul of chestnuts. And the smug self satisfaction that I beat the squirrels to them this year.
I did a little research (thanks Wikipedia!) and found these interesting facts about the chestnut:
The European chestnut is the fruit of the Castanea sativa tree. Chestnuts were introduced into Europe from Asia minor and were successfully grown in mountainous regions of Turkey, Italy and Greece, where cereal crops wouldn't flourish. Chestnuts were a main source of carbohydrate there. They could be stored, dried, and turned into flour (which is gluten-free).
As trade and agriculture improved, and other crops like the potato were introduced, chestnuts fell out of favor, stigmatized as poor peoples' food. Chestnuts have twice as much starch as potatoes, and they are the only "nuts" that have vitamin C.
In early christianity, the chestnut was a symbol of chastity owing to the prickly burr that contains the sweet fruit. I find that image a bit creepy. Worse still, in Bach flower remedies, it's said to cure "extreme mental anguish, hopelessness and despair". I hope I only ever need it for culinary purposes!
The best varieties have burrs with a single large nut; they're sweet, peel easily and aren't too floury. The French make candied chestnuts - marrons glace. The Portuguese make a chestnut liquer. The English add chestnuts to brussel sprouts, which does nothing for either ingredient. I also have a recipe for chestnut soup, but no desire to try it. So far I've only ever roasted them, a la Nat King Cole's Christmas Song. And they are a pain to peel. Hedgewizard describes an easy way to peel chestnuts. I am definitely going to give this method a try.
I just looked in my cookbook which says chestnuts can be sweetened by letting them sit for a few days so some of their starch converts to sugar. This cookbook also has a recipe for a rich chocolate and chestnut pave. I think I know what this batch is destined for. Definitely better than the brussel sprouts option.