Cucina cucina

CuriositÓ e prodotti tipici CuriositÓ e prodotti tipici

Chesnut


The chestnuts in hot water / take the name of "Ball˛tta / if its ground into flour / delicious and superfine / if with the paste, what to you do? / a tasty castagnÓccio! This nonsense rhymn testifies that the chestnut was, and is still today, used in thousands of preparations: boiled, roasted, glaced, dried, transformed into flour, in jam. Those uglier and dried up chestnuts are destined for the pigs for which they are very greedy. The chestnut has been present in Tuscany for centuries and grow on ground between 200 and 800 mts., above sea level. We have evidence of the presence of the chestnut in Tuscany since the Etruscan and Roman periods, when, together with the acorns, formed a daily food for many. Homer and Pliny widely wrote about the chestnut in their works. In more recent times the chestnut has taken on a more important role in the culture and cooking of farmworkers, having resolved the problem of hunger for long periods. The flour made from chestnuts in the zones where wheat does not grow has substituted white flour and was used to make lasagne, polenta and fritters to accompany - when there were - ricotta and cheeses. Today - with the industrialisation and the consequent circulation of money -this food has survived and is asked for as a delicacy: they may be found, a little, everywhere, but most of all in Pistoia, Lunigiana and in Garfagnana where they still speak about the "Maconeccio", an antique ritual that took place in the woods, that assured a good harvest of chestnuts. This rite included the people of the mountain villages, men and women, who, on the evening of the 29th September, feast of Saint Michael, towards dusk met in the square with torches, metal instruments and cowbells before heading off towards the chestnut woods, in procession, crying out, "Maconeccio, Maconeccio". The noise of the metal instruments, the sound of the cowbells and the Cries of the people, were used as a challenge to men and witches, to implore the evil which would have destroyed the crop of chestnuts and so wreck likewise the means of sustinence for these people for the whole year. In the culture and in farming reality it was for this very deep-rooted fear for the loss of the crop that the rituals of this charm have remained alive throughout the centuries.
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