Table of content A-Z




Synonym: Spanish chestnut, sweet chestnut

Botanical name: Castanea sativa



Sweet chestnuts originally came from the Black Sea area. Today they are grown mainly in Asia, particularly in China, but also in the milder regions of Europe and North America.

The sweet chestnuts that are sold in Germany come for the most part from Italy. In Germany they can be found in areas with favourable climates such as Lake Constance or the Palatinate.


Sweet chestnuts are harvested from the middle of September until November, depending on the area of cultivation and the variety. Accordingly, they are available from September to February, and at times they can still be found in March.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Botanically, sweet chestnuts belong to the 'true' nuts. The trees on which they grow can reach 30 m in height. They grow in pairs or in threes in thorny pericarps. When the chestnuts are ripe, the hulls burst open and release the fruits. Then the oval or heart-shaped brown nuts can be seen.

The sweet chestnut tapers to a point at one end. On the blunt end the shell has a large pale patch, known as the 'eye'.

The white-yellow meat is covered by a thin brown skin. When it is raw it is mealy and very firm. After roasting or cooking, the meat is pleasantly sweet and soft.

Incidentally, the sweet chestnut is not related to the horse chestnut that grows along streets or in parks.

Sweet chestnuts can be divided into three groups:

1. Chestnuts: These are round and smaller than marrons. The shell is usually dark and is difficult to remove from the meat. Chestnuts do not keep very well.

2. Marrons: These are more egg-shaped, slightly flattened, and have a light-brown shell that is easy to peel off. The so-called eye is not round, but almost square. Marrons keep better and taste somewhat better than chestnuts.

3. Hardy marrons: These have to be picked because they hang on the tree for a long time. They are not harvested until the end of November.


Sweet chestnuts are very rich in fibre and in, comparison to many other types of hard-shelled dry fruit, have relatively little fat; therefore, they are not as high in calories as other nuts. Further, they contain very little protein but large amounts of carbohydrates. The proportion of starch is very large in the raw fruit, which makes it mealy and hard; roasting or cooking changes the starch into sugar.

100 g contain:

Sweet chestnut, fresh
Sweet chestnut, roasted
Energy (kcal)
Water (g)
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
Carbohydrates (g) (g)
Fibre (g)
Vitamin A (RE) (µg)
Vitamin E (mg)
Vitamin B6 (mg)
Folic acid (µg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Potassium (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Iron (mg)

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

When buying chestnuts, pay attention to heavy, firm fruits with a smooth, shiny shell. Since they do not keep very long, they are handled not like nuts, but like fresh fruits.

At room temperature chestnuts can be kept only a few days. They must be protected from spoiling and germinating through cool, dry storage conditions. In the refrigerator they keep much longer, and at 0°C they can be stored for several weeks.

Shelled or cooked sweet chestnuts should be eaten as soon as possible. They can also be frozen.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Sweet chestnuts are the only nuts that cannot be eaten raw. They are especially popular as a roasted snack that can be bought in the winter from vendors on the street or at Christmas fairs.

To this end, a cross is cut into the shell of the fresh chestnut with a pointed knife. Then the shell cracks open during roasting, making it easy to eat the sweet meat.

In addition, sweet chestnuts are a popular filling or side dish for roast game and poultry, particularly goose. Either the fruits are roasted in the oven, or they are cooked for about 5 minutes. Thereafter the shell is easily removed. They are also tasty cooked, steamed or braised, in soups or salads.

If chestnuts are prepared sweet, e.g. candied, they are suitable as a dessert.

In southern countries it is even customary to make flour out of sweet chestnuts and to make bread, cakes or other baked goods from it. In Italy and France they are served in place of vegetables or potatoes.


The chestnut probably takes its name from the old Greek city of Kastana in Asia Minor, on the Black Sea.





  This article was written by




  With the website the Fritz Terfloth Foundation of Münster offers consumers independent and competent information about plant foods and their health effects. All texts are subject to German copyright law. Information about the conditions for use of the texts by third parties can be found here.