Hunting for chestnuts, poisonous mushrooms and wild boar

written by Tiana Kai

Autumn is in full swing with porcini mushrooms overgrowing, chestnuts falling from trees and Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes. Scratch that. Two of the three things can be found anywhere in Tuscany, but perchance you can ship me some of the spiced latte?

picking chestnuts

from where I stand

I absolutely love fall! A time to wear my hats, scarves, boots and long cozy sweaters. A time to eat banana bread, anything and everything with pumpkin, pasta with porcini mushrooms and roasted chestnuts.

Chestnuts are still kind of new to me. My first time trying one was on the streets in Madrid back in 2002-ish. They’re not what you would expect to find back home in Miami, but luckily they are all over the place in Florence!

Hunting for chestnuts & mushrooms

Tuscany

roasting chestnuts in Italy

I spent an amazing week with my in-laws in the countryside north of Florence. They have a vineyard—once the Medici’s vineyard, pretty cool!—and a forest in the back where my little brother and sister in laws took me on a hunt for chestnuts and porcini mushrooms.

running around the forest

picking chestnuts calls for a jump shot

The weather was perfectly cool and sunny as we headed up towards the top of the hill where the forest begins. Porcini mushrooms had all been picked a few days and even weeks before, so we were left with tons of chestnuts. I couldn’t complain!

even picked bad mushrooms

bad mushrooms that the kids swore were good, not even!

We had so much fun taking pictures and walking through the woods wondering if a wild boar would attack. A pack of cinghiali—wild boars—dug through the lawn the day before looking for worms, so we knew they must be near by.

Roasting chestnuts

roasting chestnuts on an open fire

roasting chestnuts on an open fire…

Once dinner was wrapped up we all decided to roast the chestnuts. Out came hot tea from La Via del Tè (lovely tea from Florence) and a warm fire ready for the chestnut pan filled with holes and a load of chestnuts.

DON’T forget to bang them with the sharp edge of a knife, so they crack and open like the picture below. That is unless you want them to explode!

roasting chestnuts

ready to eat!

The chestnuts roasted in the fire for about 15min until the shells open up and looked cooked. I popped them in my mouth while we watched a movie, better than popcorn! If you don’t have a fireplace, just throw them on a regular pan on the stove at medium heat for 10-15min, no problem!

This is definitely my favorite way to eat chestnuts, but it you’re feeling adventurous try out these chestnut cake recipes!

What’s your favorite fall dish?

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12 comments

BrowsingItaly November 5, 2013 at 11:38 am

Those chestnuts look wonderful. We had the chance to roast them in an open fire a few weeks ago but ours were bought and not picked. I love anything pumpkin too and risotto all zucca is one of my favorite dishes.

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Tiana Kai November 5, 2013 at 11:48 am

Ah, risotto alla zucca…I need to make that one day. I am obsessed with gnocchi alla zucca too!

I am tempted to buy chestnuts at the store this week and just pop them in the oven, since we’re back in Florence now. They’re so good!

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Becky Padmore November 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Love this time of year in Europe, those chestnuts look delicious!

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Tiana Kai November 5, 2013 at 11:22 pm

It’s such a fun season— cool weather, the excitement of the holidays approaching and chestnuts!

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Lani November 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Roasted chestnuts will always remind me of my mom who is, I’m convinced, addicted to them 🙂 How rewarding to go chestnut gathering in such a beautiful place and roast and eat them too. Cheers.

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Tiana Kai November 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hi Lani, thanks for stopping by! I am addicted to them too, especially when they are still nice and warm. I am looking forward to baking some at home during the Holidays!

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Fav Reads On Italy This Week: Nov 8 - BrowsingItaly November 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm

[…] Hunting for Chestnuts, Poisonous Mushrooms and Wild Boar by Tiana Kai – Fall is a fantastic time in Italy as there is a bevy of activities that includes olive and grape harvest, mushroom picking, truffles, chestnuts and more. Tiana shares her week in the Tuscan countryside near Florence and indulges in chestnuts roasted on an open fire. […]

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Rochelle November 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Isn’t Autumn beautiful in Italy, I don’t know why so many tourists choose to come in August, if I wasn’t living here I’d come now to enjoy the colours, food and obviously the chestnuts!!

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Tiana Kai November 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I agree with you on that one! Plus there are loads of truffles and porcini!! 😉 I can’t wait to check out fresh truffles in the next few weeks, hopefully in San Miniato!

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Kaley November 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Ah, chestnuts definitely remind me of winter in Spain! Nowhere else have I seen so many roadside stands. My father-in-law roasts them in a small frying pan at home along with acorns. Yep, acorns. They’re from a different kind of tree, so apparently they’re more edible than the kind we have in the US. They’re pretty good! After all, they’re what the jamón ibérico pigs eat.

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Tiana Kai November 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Yummy! I love chestnuts roasting on the streets. They’re all over downtown Florence, but closest to Ponte Vecchio where they can get all the tourists’ money, smart men.

I can’t wait to roast more this season. There were tons in the forest that we left behind out of laziness, so need to go back if the boars haven’t eaten them all yet.

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Chestnut Recipes, perfect for fall! July 17, 2014 at 5:12 pm

[…] Have you tried castagnaccio or let alone chestnuts? I’ve never eaten them in Miami, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some readers have never tried a chestnut before. My favorite way to eat them is roasted. […]

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