A Harvest of Chestnuts

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As the fall season arrived in Mississippi, I can think of no fall activity my Daddy enjoyed more ( maybe with the exception of  watching Ole Miss football!) than harvesting the chestnuts from the American Chestnut tree which grew in the back of their property overlooking my Mother’s rose garden.  To make the task of procuring more efficient and less formidable (their prickly shells necessitate using heavy duty gloves to prevent painful injuries),  Daddy even purchased a specialized nut gatherer comprised of a small rolling metal basket on a long wooden pole for use on his daily collecting excursions.   A memory of weathered baskets overflowing with the prized chestnuts is one that is synonymous with the fall season and is a reminder that these fruits of the harvest yielded the most delectable chestnut soup that Mother made each autumn.  Actually, depending on the size of the harvest, she usually stored quarts of the coveted soup in her freezer to enjoy for months.  A Dothan friend shared some chestnuts with me several days ago, and I can’t wait to start the roasting process to make this family tradition to share with her.

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Although I rarely post recipes on this blog,  I thought it was appropriate since Thanksgiving is fast approaching and due to the fact that I love to incorporate chestnuts into fall floral designs and vignettes.

Mother’s Chestnut Soup

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh chestnuts, roasted and shelled

2 onions, peeled and diced

1 carrot, diced

1 rib celery, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil or butter

Salt and pepper to taste

3 cups vegetable broth

1/2 – 1 cup almond milk (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cut a large “X” in the flat side of the chestnuts with a sharp paring knife all the way through the skin.  Place in a shallow roasting pan, and cook for 30-40 minutes.  Shake pan frequently to rotate the chestnuts for more even cooking.  Peel as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

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Brown the chopped onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil or butter; add the chestnuts, salt, pepper, and broth.  Cook for about 40 minutes or until the chestnuts are completely tender and have started to break up.

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You may want to use an emulsion blender or food processor to very lightly pulverize the soup.  Place back in pot to keep warm, and add almond milk if desired.  Freeze uneaten portions in heavy duty freezer bags or containers.

I love this healthy (vegan) recipe!  Serve in individual bowls or in a soup tureen.  Garnish with chestnuts and chestnut foliage to make an attractive presentation for your holiday feast..

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The glossy green chestnut foliage as well as the pods (pictured below and used a few weeks ago) add texture and dimension to fall floral designs.

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The simplicity of chestnuts in a rustic container or wooden bowl adds a harvest theme to any table..

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An antique wooden bowl filled with pine cones, fresh bittersweet, pillar candles, and chestnuts can create an aesthetically pleasing centerpiece in literally minutes.

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I am especially thankful for the gift of family traditions that keeps my parents’ memory alive.

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“Thanksgiving creates abundance”. – Ann Voskamp

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