It is the time of year for chestnuts to begin falling from the trees. Like clockwork, around the second week of September chestnuts ripen and drop to the ground. At Strouds Creek Farm, once chestnut hulls ripen we light a fire that burns constantly to prepare for the annual chestnut harvest. A chestnut hull is a ball averaging in size from golf ball to tennis ball. The hull is covered in very sharp spikes. To harvest chestnuts, it is highly recommended that you wear thick leather gloves and work with care when handling.
At Strouds Creek Farm there are five chestnut trees. Two of these five trees are located in front of the barn. During my early years on the farm, I realized we would need to harvest these nuts, otherwise the effort to manage the hulls would impact the work that needs to be done. Having the hulls lay on the ground would prove to be difficult to work around when caring for the horses or hosting birthday parties. It has been a great experience to see other animals, such as deer, ground hogs, doves, chickens, dogs, and my horses enjoy the chestnuts from the three remaining trees on the farm.
Harvesting chestnuts is time consuming, and yet very satisfying. During this month friends make time to stop by and help out. We gather around the fire barrel chatting about our days and catching up over some hot cider, while we remove chestnuts from their hull one-at–a-time. Hulls go in the fire barrel and the chestnuts are placed in the woven chestnut baskets. Once the chestnuts are harvested, I lay them out on tables in a single layer to cure for about two weeks. After curing, the chestnuts are ready to roast.
There are a few options when roasting chestnuts that include:
Roasting on an open fire, which requires that you shake your pan occasionally to keep the nuts from bursting. You need to roast chestnuts on the fire for about 20-to-25 minutes.
Roasting in the oven for 20-to-25 minutes. You will want to bake the chestnuts at 400 degrees Oven roasting has an extra step that involves taking a sharp knife to make an incision in the shape of an X in the outside shell. Do not forget this step or you will have quite a loud bursting of chestnuts and a mess of exploding chestnuts in your oven!
Last year while harvesting chestnuts with friends, I had the idea for a chestnut festival. My family recipe for cream of roasted chestnut soup has always received rave reviews and I thought it would be something unique to share. Fall is a great opportunity to enjoy time with friends and family as the weather cools off and we prepare for winter festivities. Strouds Creek Farm has brought many families joy through our birthday parties and summer camps, so it seemed to be a perfect occasion to invite the community to participate.
Our first Chestnut Festival was so much fun with the many activities for children! We looking forward to another fun filled day on Saturday, October 28.