The Great Chestnut Hunt – Die grosse Kastanienjagd


When I was a child, one of our favorite September pastimes was the Great Chestnut Hunt. We found the glossy smoothness of freshly fallen chestnuts incredibly alluring, and turned into avid hunters and gatherers.
Not satisfied with the chestnuts on the ground, we also through sticks into the trees to make more of the prickly green balls fall down, spilling their shiny contents when they cracked open.
What did we do with our wonderful bounty, after all? That was a bit of a problem. For the glossy skins of the chestnuts turned dull after a day, and, also, they didn’t feel so pleasant to the touch anymore. So some went to the local forester to feed hungry deer in winter (until he complained his storage was overflowing), some turned into funny little creatures, with acorn heads and pipe cleaner limbs.
But most of them probably ended up in the compost, or in the garbage, when mothers decided their value in keeping children busy (and out of trouble) was gone.
Sadly American chestnuts were almost wiped out by a disease, though scientists are working on bringing them back. Luckily Europe’s chestnuts were spared; and when we last visited Hamburg, walking through tree lined Parkallee, we heard disturbingly loud noises, like fire crackers. It was September, chestnut time, and a full load of ripe chestnuts pelted parked cars like hundred little bomblets.
These chestnuts were, of course, not the edible kind – those grow in milder regions. Let’s celebrate chestnuts and the glorious end of summer with delicious (boozy) CHESTNUT TORTE! (Recipe follows).

Während meiner Kindheit war eins unserer bevorzugten Freizeitvergnügen die Grosse Kastanienjagd im September. Wir fanden die glänzende Glätte frisch gefallener Kastanien unglaublich verlockend, und verwandelten uns in begeisterte Jäger und Sammler.
Nicht zufrieden mit den Kastanien am Boden, warfen wir auch noch Stöcke in die Bäume, damit noch mehr der stachligen grünen Bälle herunterfielen und ihren glänzenden Inhalt verstreuten, wenn sie aufplatzten.
Und was machten wir nachher mit unserer wundervollen Beute? Das war ein bisschen problematisch. Denn die glänzende Schale der Kastanien wurde nach einem Tag stumpf, und sie fühlten sich auch nicht mehr so angenehm an. Daher gelangte ein Teil zum örtlichen Förster, als Winterfutter für Rehe (bis er sich beschwerte, dass sein Vorratskeller überfloss), ein Teil wurde zu ulkigen kleinen Geschöpfen, mit Eichelköpfen und Pfeifenreiniger-Gliedern.
Aber die meisten endeten vermutlich auf dem Kompost oder in der Mülltonne, wenn die Mütter entschieden, dass sie ihren Wert als Kinderbeschäftigung (und -ruhigstellung) überlebt hatten.
Leider wurden amerikanische Kastanien von einer Krankheit beinahe völlig vernichtet, Wissenschaftler arbeiten allerdings daran, sie wieder zurückzubringen. Zum Glück wurden Europas Kastanien verschont; und als wir letztens Hamburg besuchten, und die baumbestandene Parkallee hinuntergingen, hörten wir verstörend lauten Lärm, wie von Silvesterknallern. Es war September, Kastanienzeit, und eine volle Ladung reifer Kastanien hagelte auf die parkenden Autos, wie Hunderte kleiner Bömbchen.
Diese Kastanien waren natürlich nicht die essbare Sorte – die wachsen in milderen Regionen. Zur Feier der Kastanien und des glorreichen Endes des Sommers gibt’s eine leckere (alkoholische) KASTANIENTORTE! (Rezept folgt)

2 thoughts on “The Great Chestnut Hunt – Die grosse Kastanienjagd

  1. It seems we are in the same “gather for the winter”-mood (is it in our genes, since we come more or less from the same region? I have been spending my weekend rummaging around for beechnuts. Once they were slowly roasting, the kitchen filled with a lovely dark brown smell and it all tapped right into that part of the brain that stores long term sense memory. Closing my eyes was enough to bring me back to the “magic tree” behind our school in the back yard of that scary and angry neighbor, that didn't want any of us kids near his beech trees 🙂

    autumnal greetings from Freerk

    (the beechnuts are plentiful this year, and, as my grandmother would say: lots of beechnuts on the trees? we are going to have a very cold winter! I don't know how global these “farmer”-wisdoms are; but don't say I didn't warn you 🙂

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  2. Yes, I definitely have that “gather for the winter” mood – I also picked rose hips from our many Rugosa rose bushes along the shore path here in Bar Harbor, to make jam.
    I know those angry neighbors, too, who – for some strange reason – objected to us climbing over the fence and helping ourselves to some apples and pears (they just tasted better than our own ones).

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