One of the most inspiring days on my little recent holiday was spending an afternoon a the Chestnut Brae farm where they grow…..chestnuts 🙂
Chestnut Brae is a 30 year old farm on about 70 acres. It’s pre-certified organic and managed by the loveliest family, who are elbow-deep involved in the daily activities, on and off season.
We were given a tour of the farm and learned so much. Despite the fact that I grew up with chestnuts, climbing my grandmother’s chestnut tree for fun as a child, picking fallen chestnuts off the ground and roasting chestnuts on an open fire, I never knew some of the quirky little facts that make chestnuts so interesting!
Like, did you know that the tree has self pollinating male and female flowers? Or that chestnuts are 60% water? And that if you pick and shell chestnuts, they need to be in a cold room by end of day?
[They had a Japenese cedar on the farm. How gorgeous!]
Other cool facts I found out at Chestnut Brae:
- A chestnut’s shelf life is 6 to 8 weeks only.
- You can use the chestnut leaves to make tea to fight staph infection!
- Chestnut trees and mushrooms are very compatible crops! Shiitake mushrooms are successfully grown on the root of the tree and porcini on the trunk.
- Chestnuts can be shelled and frozen for later use!
- Only 30% of the year’s crop is sellable and the margins for farmers are very low.
- It takes about $3.5/kg to grow and the big supermarkets (Coles or Woolies) are only willing to pay $3/kg. That’s why chances are you won’t find locally grown chestnuts in supermarkets, but imported ones. This does not make me particularly happy. I think we should all buy local to support the local farms. If you’re in the area, I strongly recommend booking a visit at Chestnut Brae 🙂
- Chestnuts can be found: fresh in the shell in your local market, frozen, in preserves (pickles, chutneys, mustard!, or in syrup) or … as chestnut flour!
- Apparently one can use chestnut flour to make chestnut polenta. This is now on my TO COOK list.
If you want to see (and hear!) more straight from the chestnut farm, I saved a few stories on my insta – in the WA farms highlight.
[Chestnut sorting bay.]
After our visit, as the self respecting foodie that I am, I stocked up on a lot of goodies. All the chestnut preserves, chestnut mustard, chestnut flour and chestnut ale!
I made these gorgeous baby turnips with the said chestnut mustard and it is a match made in heaven.
These baby turnips are so beautiful, not sure how to describe them. But if you think you don’t like turnips, I’d still say please try them. When young, they have a beautiful sweet flavor and while roasting they will develop a slightly crisp skin, while keeping a soft, creamy center. The spices used are such a good, complementary flavor. You have a nutty, tangy flavor from the mustard, and then you have the herbs and the olive oil, and the little crispy bits from the dukkah.
Just try them. 🙂
And if you don’t have baby turnips, just make this with regular turnips, chopped into rough pieces.
Glazed baby turnips with chestnut mustard and herbs
- 250g baby turnips, cleaned and left whole if they’re really tiny (you can also cut them in half if you prefer, if they are a little bigger)
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 TBSP chestnut mustard (or your favorite mustard), I used the Chestnut Brae mustard
- generous amount of freshly cracked pepper
- 20 small fresh curry leaves (or 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme)
- 1 grated clove of garlic
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- In a medium bowl, add the olive oil, mustard, pepper and grated garlic and mix together.
- Add the baby turnips and the curry leaves and toss to cover in the dressing.
- Get a bigger piece of baking paper and place the turnips in the middle – pour all the dressing on top. Then fold the paper over to enclose the turnips. Fold the edges to seal. You want to baby turnips to basically steam in the dressing + their own juices.
- Place the little parcel on a baking tray and bake for about 1 hour.
- When done, carefully remove the baby turnips from the little parcel and place in a serving bowl – pour the dressing on top (waste not!).
- Top with fresh herbs (I had oregano on hand) and sprinkle some dukkah if you have some in the pantry. I actually had some leftover crumbs after making (and devouring) these dukkah almonds.