Discover "the gold of Corsican mountain"
More than 5 centuries of chestnut production in Corsica
Present in Corsica since thousands of years, it is today the emblematic tree of the island, and an integral part of the cultural heritage and Corsican environment. Chestnut crops were originally decreed by the Genovese, then perpetuated by Pascal Paoli because “as long as we’ll have chestnut trees, we’ll have bread”. Indeed, during times of famine, chestnuts were the staple food of local populations, in particular in Castagniccia: a region abounding of chestnut groves. Since then, “the bread tree” production rose. However since 2010 the production started to struggle because chestnut trees were infected by the Cypnis, a disease due to an insect who eats trees. Even if the GRPTCMC (the regional association of chestnut producers) and the INRA (the French national body for agronomic research) of San Giuliano are both working on a cure, it will take about ten years before positive results and a production growth can be observed.
Chestnuts are harvested mid-October and undergo numerous manufacturing process in order to produce the famous flour. The first step is the drying out: in a traditional way (chestnut are placed above a wood-fire during 21 days) or with a mechanical forced-air dryer. The second step is the shelling: this involves separating the two skins (the shell and the tan) from the kernel. Chestnuts are then manually sorted in order to select only the best. The third step is the roasting phase, which involves cooking the sorted fruit in a pre-heated oven at 90°C during 24 to 48 hours to complete the water extraction of chestnuts and give them a better taste, just before the grinding phase. Then the flour can finally be bagged, labelled and put on sale.
Sweet, the chestnut flour has a fruity taste and a praline savour of biscuit. Pure and fine, it melts in the mouth. It also has great nutritional qualities: rich in proteins, very low in fat, and gluten-free.
Chestnut flour has two different PDO: one obtained in 2006 (French AOC), and the other one for “Farine de châtaigne corse – Farina Castagnina Corsa” (French AOP) in 2010.Those designations involve a production based in Corsica, with local varieties of chestnuts, cropped without any chemical treatments and in accordance to ancestral methods and savoir faire.
Besides flour, a wide range of products made with chestnut can be found: biscuits, cakes, traditional pulenda, beer… But also some handmade local items made of chestnut wood. Those products are available directly from our local craftsmen and producers, in shops, and also on markets, in particular at Bocognano’s Fair (late November – early December).
Some key numbers
- Chestnut grove hectares: 30,000 (only 1,700 are farmed)
- Chestnut producers: 90
- Annual global production: 110 tons in 2010 and 39 tons in 2015
- Mills: 35 in operation
So, are you tempted by a stay in the heart of Castagniccia ?