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It's Chestnut and Pomegranate season

Part of the bounty of autumn and winter, chestnuts and pomegranates are celebrated and sought after foods for me while they are in season. The nutty, meaty flesh from the chestnut and the zest of the red ruby pomegranates add so much joy to meals or be eaten as is. Chestnuts and pomegranates stand out for their unique flavors, vibrant colors, and rich cultural histories.

Many of you know I have been slightly obsessed with the gut microbiome and so will share with you the potential they have in our gut biome. Chestnuts and Pomegranates are both marvelous pre-biotic foods, particularly rich in ellagic acid - a substance that feeds many beneficial species in our gut biome and support the production of a substance called IPA (3-indolepropionic acid). This is a highly beneficial antioxidant produced by some bacteria playing a role to suppress gut inflammation, improving glucose regulation and help maintain the integrity of the gut barrier. .... so tuck in while they are around!

Pomegranates, originally from the Mediterranean and Middle East region are now widely cultivated throughout the north and tropical Africa, Iran, Central Asia, The Mediterranean the Indian subcontinent and Australia. Pomegranates hold great symbolism in many ancient cultures, including Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Persian. They are associated with fertility, prosperity, and the cycle of life and death. In Greek mythology, the story of Persephone eating pomegranate seeds in the underworld led to the changing of seasons.

The edible fruit is a berry with seeds and pulp produced from the ovary of a single flower, and ovary does she look! These ruby zesty gems adorn the top of my porridge and savory dishes like eggplant baba ganoush, stews, middle eastern dishes. Here are some of the benefits;

  1. Abundant in Antioxidants: Pomegranates are loaded with potent antioxidants, particularly punicalagins, which are believed to have three times the antioxidant activity of red wine or green tea. These antioxidants help protect the body against free radicals, reduce inflammation, and promote healthy aging.

  2. Heart-Healthy Properties: Studies suggest that pomegranate juice may have a positive impact on heart health. It may help lower blood pressure, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation, and improve overall cardiovascular function.

  3. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits: Pomegranates contain compounds that possess anti-inflammatory properties. Regular consumption of pomegranate juice or arils (seeds) may help alleviate symptoms associated with chronic inflammation and contribute to overall well-being.

  4. Nutrient-Rich: Pomegranates are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, as well as folate and potassium. They also contain dietary pre-biotic fiber, which supports healthy digestion.

Pomegranate is also on my shelf as a medicine. An extract of the skin and husk is effective to balance the overgrowth of intestinal parasites and bacteria.

Being a locavore I seek these out at my local farmers market each year where I have come to know a few local growers and I'm always thankful for the fruit they bring this time of the year.

Chestnuts take me straight back to autumn and winter time in Switzerland. You would hop off a train or tram and walk straight into the smokey smells of chestnuts being roasted on the street. There is something so comforting about holding a bag of warm smokey, roasted nuts to warm your hands and belly, accompanying you on walks along the lake or up cobbled stoned streets. Whenever I go back to visit my family's land, and if at the right time, it has become a ritual to go chestnut foraging in the Ticino- the Italian part of Switzerland (where I spent time in my younger years), walking in the chestnut forests with friends and carefully picking the shiny nut from it super spiky shell. It was really special to share this with my children the last time we were there. I have shared a little video at the end of the blog.

Chestnuts have many health benefits. These nuts are low in fat and calories, making them an excellent choice for those seeking a healthy snack. They are a staple food for many cultures, much like a potato or other starchy vegetables.

  1. Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Chestnuts are a good source of vitamin C, which supports immune function and acts as an antioxidant. They also contain B vitamins, such as folate and thiamine, which are essential for energy production and nerve function. Additionally, chestnuts provide minerals like potassium, magnesium, and copper.

  2. High in Fiber: Chestnuts are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Fiber aids in digestion, helps maintain a healthy weight, and contributes to heart health by reducing cholesterol levels.

  3. Antioxidant Properties: Chestnuts contain antioxidants like vitamin C and ellagic acid, which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. This may contribute to a reduced risk of chronic diseases and promote overall well-being.

  4. Gluten-Free Alternative: Chestnut flour is a popular gluten-free alternative to wheat flour, making it suitable for individuals with gluten sensitivities or coeliac disease.

Most importantly for me, is the annual ritual of making a fire, having a back yard of friends and children over, roasting and eating chestnuts together throughout winter. The children love the gathering around fire on cold afternoons, burning sticks and logs from the garden, taking in the clear skies, winter sunsets, bare trees and sharing company. And if there are any nuts left over (which doesn't happen often), they go into the lunchboxes the next day.

If chestnuts are not accessible for you, Macadamia nuts are also amazing to roast.

How to prepare:

1. Using a sharp small knife, make a slit across the round part of each nut. This cut is made so that the water that you soak them with can re hydrate them if they are a bit dry inside and make it easy to peel once cooked.

2. Soak the nuts in a bowl of water for about 2 hours, then pat dry on a towel.

3. Roasting by oven or open fire (my favorite).

Oven- preheat to 180degreesC and roast for about 20-30 minutes, turning them every 5 minutes or so. Try one in between and when they are soft all the way through, they are ready.

For Fire, make a fire in a fire drum that you can sit a grill on top. Get a decent fire going and burn some good logs to get some decent glowing coals.

Once the flames have died down and the coals are glowing fiercely, put the chestnuts on the grill, letting them roast, turning them every few minutes so they don't burn. The nut will swell as it is cooking and begin to widen the slit. Let them brown and try one. They are ready when they are soft all the way through.


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