The chestnut was the main source of nourishment, especially during the great famines, for the inhabitants of the hills and the mountains of Insubria, a region stretching across a portion of Northern Lombardy and the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Despite the delicate phytosanitary status of the chestnut woods and the variable production due to the unstable weather conditions, there has been a resurgent interest in the preservation of this plant, for its economic and environmental value.
Nutritional value of the chestnut
The chestnut is very similar to other staple foods. Compared with potatoes or wheat, chestnuts have a similar starch and protein content, and an even higher content of sucrose. They have a good nutritional value, with 160-200kcal per 100g and a low fat content. They are rich in potassium and proteins, including some essential amino-acids, and a considerable quantity of linoleic and linolenic acids.
The Chestnut Woods of Insubria Project
“I Castagneti dell’Insubria” is the name of joint project between Italy and Switzerland, funded by the European Regional Development Fund within the Interreg Cross-Border Cooperation Programme 2007-2013, whose aim was to preserve the chestnut heritage by means of touristic promotion and food culture dissemination. The project was active from 2010 to 2014 and saw 12 partners involved, of which 10 from Lombardy and 2 from the Swiss Canton Ticino. The said territory is vast and varied in elevation and landscape, with mountains, hills and lakes, but there is one common denominator, that is the chestnut tree, a symbol of Insubria.