What is an ice-cream for spring those are the chestnuts for autumn, a season when the entire city of Vienna gets a maroon colour. As soon as it gets cold, the stands selling sweet chestnuts pop up around the city. You can see them everywhere, and when you sense the smell of fresh backed chestnuts, you know that the winter is coming. Usually, they are open until the end of December and all Christmas markets in Vienna have more of them.
From the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century, the sweet chestnuts were the main food of the rural population in the mountainous regions of southern Europe. Austria, being a rural and mountainous country, has a long tradition of consuming "maronis", how they are called in Austria. The sweet chestnuts are cultivated since the antiquity in the entire Mediterranean region, and today they are grown in Europe mostly for their delicious fruits. In Austria, it is widespread in the hills of southern Styria and neighbouring Burgenland. The chestnut tree was voted tree of the year 2018. Yes, there is something like that.
Back to Vienna. About 200 stands selling sweet chestnuts open every year in the city. They are sold per piece, usually 6 or 9 pieces per portion. Sometimes, you might be unlucky to get a few spoiled chestnuts. However, don’t worry this doesn’t mean that their quality is bad. According to the Austrian Food Book, the Market Offices tolerate 20 percent of fruits that do not meet consumer expectations. So, two out of ten maronis are allowed to be bad. If there are more, you can just change your maroni stand. The chestnuts are very healthy, and they are recommended to strengthen the nerves. We all need that from time to time. Also, the chestnuts contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is responsible for a production of the "happiness hormone" - serotonin. Especially tasty are the chestnuts that are roasted over the charcoal instead of gas.
However, if you want to go to the market to buy and prepare sweet chestnuts by yourself, you should follow a few tips. The chestnuts are cut on the round side over the whole belly. Once cut through the shell, an underlying brown skin should be carved. They are baked in a hot chestnut oven or a preheated oven (at least 200 - 220 ° C), or roasted on the grill. Before eating, peel off the chestnuts and remove the underlying brown skin. You can also cook them in water for about 20 minutes, then they taste a little softer and floppy. To prepare a puree, the chestnuts must be cooked a little longer before pureeing.
So, if you are in Vienna in autumn, this is the season when the entire city is coloured in maroon, a season of chestnuts and Austrian sturm, which is the best addition to them.
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