After the heat of summer, the welcome chill of autumn gently descends on the Guadalhorce Valley. With this decrease arrives some of things we look forward to most throughout the year; the greener valleys, the appearance of turrón, the smell of bonfires and of course, a warm paper cone of roasted chestnuts from a street-side vendor.
There are various origin stories as to how the eating of castañas came about. The most famous tells the tale of how around All Saints Day, on the 1st of November, families would gather round and solemnly eat roasted chestnuts. Each chestnut consumed symbolised a soul saved from purgatory. This tradition earned itself the name castañada. Nowadays, in some cemeteries you will see the castañas laid out on graves as an offering to the dead.
Also, on the eve of All Saints Day, it was (and still is) custom for bell ringers to work all through the night, calling the people of the town to pray for their lost loved ones. This test of stamina was helped by people bringing them roasted chestnuts, a warm and calorically dense food, to keep their strength up.
Here in the Guadalhorce Valley, in the village of Yunquera to be specific, they are known for their acres and acres of chestnut trees. In fact, the Serranía de Ronda has been named one of the top ten places in the country to find the best quality chestnuts.
You’ll see this produce being sold on local stands throughout the area. These family-run stalls have been there for generations, the art of roasting being passed down from parents to children. Buying a cone of chestnuts is a fantastic way to warm up and support local products and small business.
And, for those not lucky enough to have a castaña stand near them, you can also create a similar treat in your own home. Here’s how:
- Preheat you oven to 175ºC.
- Score your chestnuts by creating a cross shaped at the narrow end. Spread them evenly onto a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice during the cooking time.
- Remove from from the oven and cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rest and steam for 15 minutes. This will make them easier to peel.
- Your chestnuts are ready! Peel and eat while still hot.