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TRADITIONAL RECIPES TYPICAL PRODUCTS LIST OF RESTAURANTS
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Castagna di Montella (Montella chestnut)


In Montella, in the heart of the Irpinia area, the chestnut has been around for such a long time that it is difficult to know exactly when it arrived. According to various authors, the chestnut, which is native to Asia Minor, was introduced to this area anywhere between the sixth and fifth centuries BC. About a thousand years later, during the Longobard period (571 AD), the first law was issued to protect chestnut-growing in situ, as it was already considered a precious resource. Just think of the strategic value that "Jove's acorn" (as this delicacy was called by the Greeks), and particularly its flour that could last for several years, could have for besieged cities and castles.

Montela chestnut - Typical products - Sorrento Italy


Later, the multiple uses of the chestnut were extremely important because they provided food and work to whole generations of rural people in the Avellino mountains.
Let's return to the present. The Montella Chestnut is so highly valued as to be the first and only case in Italy of a fruit or vegetable obtaining DOC recognition, replaced nine years later by the IGP label (Protected Geographical Indication).
Average annual production is 7-8 thousand tonnes, about 60% of the total harvest for the province of Avellino. Besides Montella, where two thirds of the total IGP area are concentrated, the communes that can boast the label include Bagnoli Irpino, Cassano Irpmo, Nusco, Volturara Irpina and part of the commune of Montemarano. In 2001, 150 registered farms covering an area of about 540 hectares, produced 1,125 quintals of certified produce.
Over half goes to the overseas market, particularly to the USA and Canada, where chestnuts from Avellino arrived during the last century in the wake of emigration. The Palummina cultivar is recognised as the undisputed queen (90% of produce) of the whole range of varieties.
It has medium-sized, rounded fruit with aflattish lower side, convex base and aflat top (it looks like a little dove, from which the dialectal term "palummina", from the Italian "palomba" meaning "little dove"). The flesh of the seed is white and crunchy with a pleasant, sweet taste. The thin, dark brown pericarp is easy to peel off.
The preservability, tastiness and fragrance of the Montella Chestnut makes it ideal for two uses', fresh (including freezing) and dried, with or without the shell, whole or ground into flour. In Irpinia, chestnuts used to be dried inside houses on the attic floor, to exploit the smoke and heat from the kitchen below. Today, half the produce is dried and this is mostly carried out directly on the farms. The Priest's Chestnut is the jewel in the crown of Irpinia chestnut growing and is traditionally eaten at Christmas. Its delicate smoked aroma contrasts pleasantly with the slightly sweet flavour of the fruit.
The fresh chestnuts are arranged in layers on wooden trellises over fires of chestnut wood kept burning for a fortnight. Afterwards, they are roasted in ventilated ovens and rehydrated by being immersed in water. They are a real speciality, much appreciated both in Italy and abroad.


 

 
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