The best time for foraging for sweet chestnuts is late autumn, which makes this delicious delicacy from the forest a perfect treat to enjoy when the nights are drawing in.

They are high in dietary fibre, which helps to regulate cholesterol levels, and, unlike other nuts, they are low in protein and fat. Their richness in vitamin C also means that they are an antioxidant and contribute to a healthy immune system.

Sweet chestnuts are easy to distinguish from horse chestnuts (also known as conkers) because their shells are yellow and spiky – often described as looking like small hedgehogs – rather than green and thorny-looking.

Sweet chestnuts. © Frans Sellies/Getty
Fallen conker from a horse chestnut tree. © Michael Roberts/Getty
Fallen conker from a horse chestnut tree. © Michael Roberts/Getty

To harvest, search the ground beneath sweet chestnut trees for cases that have fallen. You might want to bring gloves with you when you’re foraging as the shells are very prickly.

In their shells, chestnuts keep for a week at room temperature, but if you want to keep them any longer, refrigerate them in a paper bag for up to three weeks.

Roasted sweet chestnuts. © Huizeng Hu/Getty
Roasted sweet chestnuts. © Huizeng Hu/Getty


  • Sweet chestnuts


  • STEP 1

    Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F/gas mark 6. Remove the nuts from the spiky shells and prepare them for cooking. Nuts can give a little if you squeeze them, but discard any that are soft. Also discard any nuts that have holes in them.

    Place a nut flat-side down on a chopping board. With a serrated knife, carefully make a shallow incision all the way across the rounded surface. Do this on all the nuts. The slit should be deep enough to have cut through the skin – its purpose is to let the steam out when the nuts are in the oven, which stops them exploding.

  • STEP 2

    Put the chestnuts cut-side up on a baking tray and roast them for 15–20 minutes, or until the skin begins to come away from the nut.

    Peel the chestnuts as soon as you can once they’re out of the oven, as they’re easiest to peel when still warm. Use oven gloves or a cloth to protect your hands from the heat.

  • STEP 3

    Serve the chestnuts as they are, or use them in salads, soups or pies. The cooked, peeled chestnuts can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container for up to four days, or frozen for up to three months.

Chris Naylor loves fresh air and adventure, and believes any day that doesn’t involve the great outdoors is a missed opportunity. He is passionate about inspiring others to get out into nature and to be curious about the world around them.

Chris Naylor pic

This is a recipe from Go Wild: Find freedom and adventure in the great outdoors by Chris Naylor, published by Summersdale.

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