How to Harvest and Store Chestnuts
Anyone who knows the difficulties associated with harvesting chestnuts for eating during the holiday season would most likely prefer to avoid the cold and discomforts of harvesting them, and instead buy them. But, after all, there is the fun and adventure to think about. Chestnuts are not like most fruits and nuts that can be can be easily harvested. They must be picked during cold weather, however, it cannot be too cold as the chestnuts may become bitter. So, if you are ready for the adventure, here are 6 tips you can use to harvest and store chestnuts.
Tip 1 – Seasonal Timing
Timing is a key to picking chestnuts. You need to pick them when they are still sweet, but also when their burs (pods) have opened enough to expose the nuts inside them. Typically, the right time is a week or so before winter's first snowfall.
Tip 2 – Preparing for the Gathering
You will need a stepladder to gather these nuts from low-hanging chestnut tree limbs. And don't forget to take along a bucket to put your nuts in, and a pair of iron-tough gloves. You will need to pry prickly chestnut burs (pods) open so you can pluck the nuts from within these burs. Picking them will be something like petting an angry porcupine
Tip 3 – The Actual Gathering
Pick the nuts out of the burs, one at a time, and drop them into your bucket which you should place on the ground beneath you.
Tip 4 – The End of Gathering
When you have had enough of balancing on the ladder, fingers that are numbed by the cold and then pricked by the chestnuts spiny burs, it will be time to return home to prepare the nuts you have gathered.
Tip 5 –Preparing the Nuts for Baking
Your next chore will be to bake the nuts. Shelling them, strange as it may seem, comes after the baking. You see, chestnuts actually have two shells for each nut, the outer one, which is thick and leathery (somewhat like the gloves you wore to pick them) and the inner one. If you were to try to remove their shells from the nuts before they are baked, you'd find that they are sticking to the nut like they were glued there. But there is good news. When the nuts are heated, you will be able to easily remove both of the shells. For now, use a sharp knife to cut off both ends of each nut, place them all on a baking sheet, and bake them for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees.
Tip 6 – Preparing the Nuts for Storage
When they are baked, take the nuts from the oven and immediately drop them into cold water. This sudden shock from 400-degree heat to icy cold water will cause them to contract and open their shells, leaving the shells loose, sagging, and ready for you to remove. Dry the nuts, then wrap them tightly in foil and store them in a cool dry place.