I know that autumn has arrived when I see sellers of chestnuts around the squares and people walking happily with their hot chestnut cones. October up to the beginning of November is the perfect time for an excursion in the woods to harvest chestnuts. It's not as simple as buying them, but it will be fun immersing yourself among the autumn colours and scents of the underbrush.
Choose a hilly wood or mountainous area up to 900-1000 meters. The wood behind the house might also be fine, but you have to make sure that it is not a private property or a reserve. If you have any doubts, ask your municipality.
It might seems obvious but it is not! Not all chestnuts are good to eat. Let's start from the base: recognising the chestnut tree. You have to check the leaves that must be long and with serrated edges. In the branches and on the ground you have to see the spiny burrs. Remember, if they've fallen it's even better, it means they're perfectly ripe! To open the burr when it is still closed, simply press lightly with a stick. Don't try to detach it from the branches, if it has not fallen yet, it means that the chestnuts are not ready. The good ones are hard and uniform in colour, whereas you can discard the soft ones. But don't start carefully selecting on the spot, try to do this just touching them and then check them better at home. Finally, I'd like to clarify the difference between chestnuts and marroni, which despite being types of the same fruit they have many differences: chestnuts come from wild trees whereas marroni come from cultivated chestnut trees. Chestnuts are smaller, flat on one side and round on the other. Marroni, however, are bigger and similar in shape to a small heart and are the most appreciated for their taste.
If you don't want to risk fines, you have to keep to the allowed limit of 2kg per person per day ;)
Start from choosing the right clothing, such as long trousers, a waterproof jacket and boots with a hard sole. The risk of slipping on wet leaves is very high...I speak from experience ;) Don't forget sturdy gloves otherwise collecting the burrs will be a real torture! To collect the chestnuts you will need wicker baskets or jute bags to allow the fruits to breathe.
You have just to invite a few friends over, sit all together around a burning fireplace and enjoy some good wine together with the chestnuts!