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Chestnuts, autumn’s delight

73ª FESTA DEI MARRONI IGP From Friday 6th october to Thuesday novemebr 1st in Combai di Miane
marroni di combai

From a necessary staple to a local speciality which is increasing in popularity, this autumn fruit has grown in the woodland areas of the Pedemontana in the north of the province of Treviso since the12th Century. Chestnut cultivation used to be one of the main agricultural activities in the territory but production has fallen drastically over the years as its value dropped in comparison with other crops but also due to disease including chestnut blight and intense demand for tannin from the leather industry, a substance which comes from chestnut bark.

Today, thanks to the work of growers and enthusiasts working together in the Combai Growers Association (with around 200 members and 50 hectares of chestnut cultivation), the chestnut, or marrone, the more prestigious and flavoursome variety, has gained recognition based on its extraordinary quality and received IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta – Protected Geographical Indication) status in 2009 under the name Marrone di Combai. The Protected area covers 11 local municipalities running from Segusino to Cordignano with Combai itself at its heart.

The Marrone has one of the most ancient local festivals dedicated to it, the Festa del Marrone di Combai, held in the small town of Miane in the month of October (the 2017 edition runs from October 6th to November 1st). This will be the 73rd edition of the festival which offers the opportunity to sample chestnuts prepared in a wide variety of ways: roasted in the traditional large roasting pans, and boiled, but also used as ingredients to make wonderful soups from an ancient recipe from the mondòi, or served with pheasant or stews and with sausages. And then there are all the wonderful cakes and desserts made with chestnut flour (rich in starch), pies and chestnut cream and ice cream.

The best wines to accompany the marroni are Novello and Verdiso – a variety native to the Province of Treviso – but in recent years there has been a lot of interest in chestnut beer which is traditionally Italian and made by swapping chestnut flour for barley in the brewing process and using very painstaking filtration techniques. Apart from Combai, there is the 47th Chestnut Festival in Colmaggiore during the first three weekends of October and the 47th Festival of Chestnuts and Mushrooms in Follina which runs throughout the month of October.

[This article was originally published in the Visit Conegliano Valdobbiadene magazine, issue Autumn Winter 2017. The magazine is available here]