One of my favourite foraging experiences is finding a big sweet chestnut tree and this year is a good season for them! Every morning when i go for a walk on Hampstead Heath there is a great big one right there gently coaxing me to start picking these smooth shinny gems. (check out what i got to the right!)
Sweet chestnuts are not only yummy, they are angels sent from nature to nourish our kidney QI as we get ready for winter. Especially if you are of a cold, thin saturnian constitution like me they are really precious, most people in the city nowadays have some cold imbalance. I have them for breakfast and thats when they are best in my opinion, the easiest is freshly steamed but there are obviously lots of way to eat them and store them for the winter, because fresh ones do not last long. As soon as i eat one i can literally feel the warm strengthening and toning effect it is having on my Kidneys and spleen, this i why i cherish the season, which is on right now!
I was observing a cross section diagram of the kidneys the other day and was surprised to notice what looked like little chestnuts inside a Kidney bean(see picture to the right). No coincidence then that the chinese like to enjoy chestnuts with kidney beans for treating the kidneys! Ahh… the universe is smilling with us at every turn 🙂
Below check out some cool info on Sweet chestnuts, their long historical use, what they do and how to prepare them.
according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chestnuts are regarded as “fruit for the kidney and patients with renal diseases.” It is a warming food that nourishes the QI of the gastrointestinal system, spleen, and kidneys. Kidney nourishment is especially important for those who have a sore lumbar spine, frequent urination at night, or loose teeth.
Chestnuts are also used in TCM to improve circulation, and are eaten daily by the elderly in China to prevent and treat high blood pressure, heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and osteoporosis. Additionally, the chestnut is high in carbohydrates. Its energy warming quality is good for suppressing and combating colds. It is also used as a tonic food during the autumn and winter.
Eating chestnuts raw can be just as beneficial to one’s health as eating them cooked. According to TCM, eating raw chestnuts can cure lower back and leg problems caused by weak kidneys. Every morning and evening, the patient should slowly chew a few chestnuts until they become a white pulp, and then slowly swallow..
When eating chestnuts, always chew them carefully. The stomach and spleen can be harmed if they are eaten too fast. While they are good for health, eating too many chestnuts can lead to constipation.
About 5 to 10 chestnuts a day is considered enough.
This edible nut has been used by the Chinese since neolithic times. For many centuries it was probably the most important and/or the most popular nut used in their culinary. The word for chestnut is li tzu. The Chinese adore words that are homonyms, and this one sounds like two others; one meaning ‘favorable,’ the other meaning ‘sons.’
Perhaps one of, if not the earliest nut used in antiquity. Writings about the chestnut have been found on oracle bones along with the mulberry, the apricot and the jujube. There are early writings about them from Zhou (1046 – 256 BCE) through Han Dynasty times; often mentioning them as important food. Many years later, they are recorded as that and more in the Shih Ching or Book of Odes (circa 700 BCE) and in the Li Chi or Book of Rites (circa 100 BCE)
Other things known about the chestnut include that they are considered a good omen, and that chestnut trees were planted near court mansions. They were also planted near alters at temples dedicated to earthly spirits. Then and now, the chestnut has religious roles as temple offerings.
Fewer people know that in ancient times, chestnuts used to be stored sun-dried and sand-covered under a pottery dome. A lesser known way is eating them after pickling and salting. Not as easily available now, they were popular made that way during Tang Dynasty times (618 – 907 CE). The chestnut is very perishable when fresh. So the Chinese preserve them in many ways. Most are given a quick boil then peeled and dried. Many peeled ones are cooked in a thick sugar syrup. Others are canned in water. And some are still pickled in salt or vinegar or both.
When starving, their recommendation is to chew, swallow, and digest three cooked chestnuts. Doing so, they advise, and pangs of hunger will quickly disappear. Then going back to regular meals is what they say to do.
Chinese grandmothers have other recommendations. They sew dried chestnuts into the hem of a granddaughter’s bridal dress. They also like to pack chestnuts into the boxes of clothes to be taken to a bride’s new home. They want to assure early and easy childbirth. They use the chestnut as an omen for many sons. They sometimes add hair vegetable to the hem or the box of clothing. The reasoning here is that during birth their granddaughter will not lose much hair, and that her offspring will have jet black hair in abundance.
See full history here: http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataaccess/article.php?ID=471
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