Like quince, chestnuts are also seasonal in Britain at this time of year, as well as other places in the world. After all, it’s no accident that Nat King Cole sang about chestnuts roasting on an open fire in his Christmas hit. Indeed, the smell of roasting chestnuts is noticeable on the streets of London during the festive period too. Sweet chestnuts enjoy a long history in Europe, with their cultivation dating back to at least 2000BC. Many former civilisations are said to have survived wars and natural disasters because chestnuts were the only foodstuffs to grow well.
As a result of abundant woodlands of chestnuts and their seasonality at this time of year, many traditions have ensued of chestnuts at Christmas-time. In France, the marron glacé – a candied chestnut – is traditionally served at Christmas and New Year. In Modena in Italy, chestnuts are soaked in wine before being roasted and served. In Madeira, chestnut liquor is a traditional beverage, drunk all year round.