The chestnut of the Belasitsa Mountain (Bulgaria)

The chestnut forests in the Belasitsa Mountain are the largest in Bulgaria and on the Balkans. They are located in the South-western part of the country, close to the Bulgarian-Greek border. They are very precious and deserve to be preserved and protected. In recent years a Chestnut Festival has been organized in the village of Kolarovo in the District of Blagoevgrad in the beginning of autumn. It involves setting up of pavilions exhibiting magnificent traditional costumes, carpets, paintings, decorations, tasty fruit and vegetables. The visitors can taste traditional dishes and drinks typical of the region, incl. tasty Bulgarian culinary temptations with chestnuts such as chestnut pie, chicken with chestnuts, roasted chestnuts, chestnut honey and others are also on offer. The chestnut forests in this region are of relic origin. Many vascular plants of conservation importance occur in them: Dactylorhiza incarnata, Ilex aquifolium, Juniperus excelsa, Limodorum abortivum, Medicago carstiensis, Platanthera chlorantha etc., as well as the fungi of conservation significance – Amanita caesarea, Boletus luteocupreus. However, natural degradation successions the  intensity of which is increased by direct (grazing, logging for wood exploitation, cutting and thrashing of the branches to collect the fruits, and for “rejuvenating” of the trees for higher fruit yeld, etc.) and indirect (tourist pressure, pollution, diseases and pests etc.) anthropogenic factors. Thus, the Belasitsa Nature Park is included in the list with protected areas and the species are included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria. The chestnut production in Bulgaria is small in amounts and is used mainly on the domestic market. The full needs of the chestnuts on the market are satisfied mainly by import.

Chestnut and the CDO Chestnut Flour Sector in the Regional Natural Park of Corsica (France)

Chestnut and the CDO Chestnut Flour Sector in the Regional Natural Park of Corsica (France)
Chestnut production in numbers
⮚ 80 farmers throughout the castaneicultural territory
⮚ 35 mills in operation
⮚ 40 varieties of chestnuts listed
⮚ Fruits harvested between October and December
⮚ 150 tonnes of Corsican chestnut flour produced (flour with many nutritional qualities, gluten-free)
⮚ 2,000 ha exploited (harvested / maintained) out of a potential of 30,000 ha
The Corsican chestnut flour
A multitude of chestnut-based products: chestnut flour in CDO (Controled Designation of Origin), creams, jams, candied chestnuts, cookies, cakes, “foie gras”, alcohol, beer, fresh chestnuts, dry chestnuts …
The specifications of the CDO Corsican chestnut flour prohibit any chemical amendment. The cultivation method is therefore very close to the organic cultivation method. The majority of producers are also registered in organic farming.
Little or no exports for the moment even if as part of its missions to support marketing strategies, the CDO union has carried out market studies, in particular for the Nordic countries. All production is currently exclusively marketed in Corsica; local demand being greater than supply.

The Agricultural cooperative of Melivia, in the Mount Kissavo, Thessaly (Greece)

The 38 producers of the Agricultural cooperative Melivoias Group Farmers, “Athanatoi”, a village near Larisa in Thessaly, represent a volume of 250 tons of chestnuts, for 1000 tons in the whole area (2021). 50% of the production are going to the domestic market and 50% of the fresh nuts are exported to Italy. The area of Larissa has the largest production of the country mainly around the chestnut villages of Melivoia and Karitsa.
Chestnut forests of Greece
In Greece, it is estimated that 100 villages are producing chestnuts, which represents around 10,000 producers and 18,000 tons of fruits. The largest chestnut forests of Greece are found in Mount Athos, about 80 thousand acres and in the region of Pelion, around 50 thousand acres, but also in Evros and in the prefecture of Larissa and in the prefecture of Kozani. Some of these chestnut forests are within protected areas (Natura).

Visit the website of the Agricultural Cooperative Melivias

Chestnut fruit of Terra Fria of Trás-os-Montes (Portugal)

Characteristics of the chestnuts: Nuts obtained from the chestnut tree (Castanea sativa Mill) of the Longal, Judia, Côta, Amarelal, Lamela, Aveleira, Boa Ventura, Trigueira, Martaínha and Negral varieties. The chestnuts show an elongated, elliptic form, with a shining reddish-brown color with dark, long lines. They have an intense flavor.
Method of production: The production of chestnuts is made with very little external production factors – only fertilizers, given that phytosanitary treatments are not common practice. The cultivation is made mainly in orchards under spontaneous or sown vegetable covers, very rich in fauna and flora. The nuts are harvested directly from the floor (manually or mechanically) after maturation is complete.
History: The chestnut tree is one of the main fruit trees that grow in this region and has always been important for the survival of the local rural population, being today not just a source of food but also of great support to the local economy.
Area of production: in the region (Alfândega da Fé, Bragança, Chaves, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Mirandela, Valpaços, Vimioso and Vinhais, in the districts of Vila Real and Bragança), small producers are most common, with some companies of a bigger dimension also in existence. In total, there are about 44 000 chestnut acres, with bigger predominance in Bragança, Vinhais, Valpaços and Macedo de Cavaleiros.
Area of organic production: The number of farms with chestnut trees producing organically is relatively small (1980 acres), although there also exist about 1200 chestnut acres converting to organic production.
Volume of production: the region is responsible for about 85% of the chestnut production in Portugal, which means that the region of Terra Fria in Trás-os-Montes produces between 34 and 38 000 tons of chestnuts.
Characteristics of the market: about 40% of the chestnut production is meant for the fresh products market (non-processed chestnuts) in Portugal or in foreign countries (Spain, France, Brazil, Italy Canada, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, with the first three being the biggest clients). In the remaining 60% of chestnut production, a part is meant for exportation to France, Italy and Spain for industrial processing; the other part is processed by the Portuguese agroindustry.
Processed products and marketing of the chestnut: There are a few agro-industrial units of relevancy in Portugal (Alcido Nunes, Agroaguiar, Monsurgel, Sortegel, etc.), that process chestnuts, mainly through peeling and freezing (a small part of these are marketed in Portugal, while the bigger remaining part is exported to Europe and other continents). The rest is processed into chestnut flour (a product growing in popularity) or into other chestnut-based products.
In the months of autumn (harvesting period), a little all over the chestnut-growing regions, there are a lot of fairs and events dedicated to the chestnut. In these events, the chestnut, raw or processed, is promoted. Also, almost all over the country, the chestnut is sold on the streets (roasted chestnuts sold by street vendors) as well as in traditional stores, markets, supermarkets, etc. Besides that, there are specialized stores, such as the “MARRON Oficina da Castanha:”, that only targets chestnut-based products.

Chestnut in Galicia (Spain)

In Galicia, chestnuts have a high repercussion in the rural economy. Galicia is the principal region of Spain for chestnut production. Annually, Galicia produces 20 million Kg in 46,500 ha which are then transformed (chestnut derivatives, exportation, natural product, etc.) and valued at 70 million €. Nowadays, the production of chestnuts is confined to the South-Eastern quarter of Galician territory. In this region, there is a traditional word to name chestnut groves that is “soutos”, which refers to the landscape after harvesting.
The “soutos” & the Castaña de Galicia
In soutos, the trees have more functions than the production of chestnuts like for firewood or for obtain compounds of interest, namely tannins.
In soutos, the most abundant tree species is Castanea sativa and the chestnut obtained from this tree is the only Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in the European Union (EU) regulations, so-called Castaña de Galicia (Galician Chestnut). The Council Regulation (EC) no 510/2006 ‘Castaña de Galicia’, regulates the harvesting and production of the chestnut in a determinate area of Galicia.
One of the biggest companies in the chestnut sector is Cuevas group, internationally known, it is circumscribed into the PGI of Castaña de Galicia. Cuevas began in 1867 as a small grocery store. Currently, it operates in the sectors of food distribution and agri-food industry and its main product is marron glacé. Nevertheless, they produce other products such as raw material, offering chestnuts, purées and sauces, candied chestnuts with different nuances and flavors, creams, jams, and creams for making ice cream and chocolates. These products mean the transformation of 1.500 tons of chestnuts every year that are later distributed in almost 30 countries.