Chestnut and vanilla: an exquisite blend of north and south!
Real chestnuts are part of the Fagaceae family and different varieties, all belonging t the Castanea species, are grown in temperate regions in the US, several Asian and South-East Asian countries, and Europe. It should never be confused with the horse chestnut of the Aesculus genus which is not a member of the Fagaceae family, but which produces fruits of similar appearance and is slightly toxic for human consumption. Other species that resemble the chestnut tree (and that we often see in urban areas) are the chestnut oak and the American beech. As for the real and edible chestnuts, the non-grafted varieties generally have several segmented nuts within their shells and are mainly used for flour or for making crushed and dried chestnut pieces, while the grafted plants produce a single big nut, which is often roasted or candied and of course used as stuffing in holiday turkeys or other poultry. Chestnut purées are most often used as filling in desserts and puddings and, when mixed with real vanilla (and not artificial vanillin) are probably one of the most exquisite blends of flavors between the north and south, rustic and exotic at the same time!