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9/18/2015

The talented brunette with a real bite

kastanien
The chestnut is easily cracked but you have to hurry, as they're only available during the autumn months of September, October and November. Once released from her smooth inner casing however, you see the chestnut's true age. Fine lines betray the fact that she has been part of South Tyrolean history for over 1,500 years. The 'nuie Wein', or new wine, was allowed to slip inside the chestnut's coat from the start while maturing in barrels of chestnut wood, and monasteries made nutritious chestnut soup.

Hollow shell – nothing of the sort!

Chestnuts are healthy all-rounders. Dominik, a keen foodie who prepares everything with a passion and works as a cook in a 5 Star restaurant on the Seiser Alm, raves about them.“What can you do with chestnuts? I can think of chestnut risotto, chestnut dumplings or tender rack of lamb with chestnut crust for a start (…) but my personal favourite is chestnut tagliatelle with 'Speck', coffee (!) and leeks. Chestnuts lend an earthy taste, coffee a slight bitterness and leeks some sweetness (…). Chestnuts contain high quality protein, little fat and are full of trace elements and minerals.“ The longer he goes on singing their praises, the more listeners work up an appetite and look forward to chestnut season.

Even the weather is delectable ...

With a check of your weather app and which 'chestnut events' are on, and you're off. Whether the 'Keschtnriggl' (for information write to the Tourist Board of Lana) in Tisens, Prissian and Völlan or „Keschtnigl“ in Felthurns, there are tasty titbits to be found all over South Tyrol. But the inhabitants of the Eisack river valley transform the fifth season into the first. They have 63 km of 'Keschtnweg' path, which runs - adorned with original farm shops and eateries - from the monstery 'Kloster Neustift' near Brixen through the Eisack valley to the Ritten high plateau and back down to Bozen. I am greeted by a friendly voice on the telephone. It belongs to Andreas, from 'Appartments Kerschbaumer' in Feldthurns. Talking about chestnuts isn't difficult for a genuine Eisacktal native like him: “We often roast chestnuts and take some to our guests. A highlight for those staying with us is our 'Kastanienblick' apartment, which enjoy wonderful views of the surrounding chestnut groves. It's 3 minutes' walk from us to the 'Keschtnweg' path and a variety of farms where you can go 'törggelen' – the original version, he stresses. “Done unlike everywhere else in South Tyrol, the Eisack river valley is the cradle of 'Törggelen' culture, and rightly so.“

Chestnuts, 'Kraut' and “Can't we stay a little longer?“

Stopping off for a spot of 'Törggelen' requires a hearty appetite: 'Schlutzkrapfen', cabbage, spare ribs, salt meat accompanied by traditional dumplings. A portion of roasted chestnuts to finish sees off any residual hunger and people contentedly make their way home, usually as it's getting late. If still not satisfied, you can always complain to the odd witch or two that may accompany you along the Chestnut Path, at least according to age-old legend.
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