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History of chestnuts in the Italian diet

Chestnuts have been for centuries the main food resource for the populations of the mountain areas of Mediterranean Italy, as well as of the pre-Alpine region. In consequence of its character of "food of the poor", it was only seldom used in the diet of the upper classes. The cultivation has been largely abandoned in the first half of the 20th century; this was due to the urban migration of farmers, but also to the reduced request for chestnut coppice and timber, and to the presence of pathogens.

In the most recent years, chestnuts have been rediscovered by urban people, and their use is increasing, although the memory of many ancient recipes is now lost. Chestnut forests are nowadays considered also as a valuable attraction for tourists' walks, although the pick-your-own harvesting system has not yet been introduced in Italian farming. The chestnut season is unfortunately short, as chestnut is seen as an autumn fruit, and is consumed between October and Christmas, although frozen chestnuts could be used all the year through; also a wider diffusion of some regional dishes might foster a wider use of chestnut fruits.

G. Tagliaferri, F. Camilli, E. Pagliarino - C.N.R. IBIMET, Italy
F. Cannata, C.N.R. IBAF, Italy


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