Chestnuts, a Gluten-free Treat for Every Season

We interrupt today’s normally-scheduled blogging: Better Batter has issued a product recall because of unreported dairy. Read more here if you’ve purchased their mixes and need to stay dairy-free.

And now:

The LA Times had an interesting article not long ago about the American Chestnut Foundation. You can read it here, but in a nutshell (ha!) the article covers the group’s attempt to reintroduce the chestnut tree to the American landscape.

At the turn of the last century, nearly 4 billion chestnut trees grew across the eastern US. The chestnuts themselves were a staple crop, suitable for roasting, for milling into flour, for brewing into beer, and more. By 1940, however, a blight had decimated the population; only a very few remained and many of those were too far apart to successfully cross-pollinate and reproduce.

Why care? Well, you don’t have to. But you should know that chestnuts are gluten-free and delicious.

There are decades between now and any widespread resurgence of domestic chestnuts. As the American Chestnut Foundation’s spokeswoman Meghan Jordan said to the LA Times, “Tree-breeding is not for the impatient.” However, you can get started cooking with chestnuts as soon as today.

Chestnut season itself is in the late fall, but the nuts pack well and so there’s no reason not to use them year-round. Chestnut flour is also a great addition to any gluten-free doughs you like.

Allen Creek Farms runs a great website to complement their chestnut-growing business, and they’ve helpfully labeled those of their chestnut recipes which are gluten-free. My favorites are a refreshing chopped salad with cabbage, chestnuts, hazelnuts and other goodies, and a crepe recipe which would be divine filled with either sweet or savory fillings.

I also really like this recipe from Debra Lynn Dadd for gluten-free castagnaccio, or chestnut-flour cake. She goes through a handful of different ways you can spice the cake to match your tastes or the season – citrus, rosemary, powdered sugar, pine nuts, honey – and all of them sound delicious.

If you’re feeling fancy, you could try a chestnut, lavender and goat cheese soufflé from Yum and More. Note that the recipe calls for chestnut flakes, which can be ordered online but could also probably be omitted without too much sacrifice.

Lastly, take a look through the recipes collected by the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri. Not all are gluten-free (at least, not without some substitutions), but a number are. Specific things to look out for: chestnut hummus, chestnut honey spread, and a chestnut soup with fresh ginger.

What’s your favorite gluten-free use for chestnuts?

2 thoughts on “Chestnuts, a Gluten-free Treat for Every Season”

  1. Oops, that looks like a picture of a poisonous horse chestnut.

    I love the Dowd & Rogers chestnut flour vanilla cake mix, so good.

  2. I have a traditional Greek stuffing recipe that is naturally gluten free. My mother used to stuff a bird with it. My generation decided stuffing the bird was an unnecessary step and too much to eat with a turkey dinner. We make it as a meal!

    Ingredients: Olive oil, minced onion, garlic (optional), lean ground meat, rice, water, canned tomato sauce or canned pureed tomatoes, boiled, peeled and broken chestnuts, cinnamon (could be left out, but is traditional of a certain region and distinctive), oregano, salt and pepper, pignola nuts, few splashes of red wine.

    Recipe is proportional and orally handed down I have no exact amounts here but it’s based on two pounds of ground meat and two and a half cups of rice)
    Saute onions & garlic in olive, add ground beef (turkey would be good, too) and brown. Add rice and proportional amount of water needed for rice, minus a half a cup and a 16 oz pureed tomato. Bring to a boil, stirring and add herbs and spices to taste. Cinnamon (up to a tablespoon) and oregano (up to a tsp). Once boiling, add nuts, cover and simmer until rice is tender. Enjoy however you want!

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