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Storing and Handling Fresh Chestnuts

Eating chestnuts can be delightful or disappointing, depending on several factors:

  1. Chestnuts are not like other nuts, and can't be stored or cooked like them. If allowed to dry out they become as hard as dry beans, and impossible to chew; if kept too wet or too warm, they will mold.
  2. To keep chestnuts for several weeks, store them exactly as you would carrots—in the refrigerator, in the "crisper" bin. To keep them for longer periods of time, they can be frozen, although this will somewhat alter their texture; or they can be intentionally, rapidly dried, and then re-hydrated by simmering in water for an hour or so.
  3. Properly stored fresh chestnuts will feel hard as rocks if you squeeze them. Though our chestnuts are unusually sweet right out of the bag, for best flavor you should dry them slightly. A unique aspect of chestnuts is that they become sweeter as they dry. European chestnuts usually taste very bland and starchy if eaten right out of storage. Ideally, take chestnuts out of the fridge 3-4 days before you intend to eat them, and spread them out where they can dry slowly at room temperature. When they are dry enough they will "give" perhaps 1/16" when you squeeze them. Longer drying will make the nutmeat feel spongy; they are still fine to eat and cook with at this stage.
  4. Spoilage: Because they are so perishable, in spite of all we can do a few nuts will turn out to be moldy, so look before you bite! Sometimes only a small part will be spoiled, and the good part may or may not still be edible. Occasional superficial dark spots on a nutmeat usually have no effect on taste.