European chestnuts can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be roasted whole and they have a wide range of uses. For example, they can be served as a side or an ingredient in desserts. Chestnuts can also be ground into flour, which can be used as a substitute for wheat flours.
From Wikipedia: “Castanea sativa, or sweet chestnut, is a species of flowering plant in the family Fagaceae, native to Europe and Asia Minor, and widely cultivated throughout the temperate world. A substantial, long-lived deciduous tree, it produces an edible seed, the chestnut, which has been used in cooking since ancient times.”
“C. Sativa is found across the Mediterranean region, from the Caspian Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is thought to have survived in several refuges during the last ice age in southern Europe, Northeast Turkey and the Caucasus. It then spread North and West throughout mainland Europe, and is thought to have arrived in Italy from Asia Minor with the Greeks.”
“Chestnuts contain high levels of the carbohydrates starch and sucrose. They spoil easily because of the high sugar content as well as the high water content (typical of fresh fruit). The high levels of carbohydrates distinguish chestnuts from most other nuts, which primarily contain fats. The protein in chestnuts is free of prolamins and gluten, but chestnut flour can only be used for baking in combination with another flour. … Chestnuts contain very little fat but have high levels of linoleic acid and linolenic acid. They are high in potassium, but very low in sodium (9 mg per 100 g). In terms of vitamins, chestnuts only contain only two of the B vitamins, ribovflavin (B2) and niacin (B3), in significant amounts. Both of these have a high temperature stability.”
“The species is widely cultivated for its edible seeds (also called nuts) and for its wood. As early as Roman times, it was introduced into more northerly regions, and later was also cultivated in monastery gardens by monks. Today, centuries-old specimens may be found in Great Britain and the whole of central, western and southern Europe. ...
A tree grown from seed may take 20 years or more before it bears fruits, but a grafted cultivar such as 'Marron de Lyon' or 'Paragon' may start production within five years of being planted. Both cultivars bear fruits with a single large kernel, rather than the usual two to four smaller kernels.”
“The raw nuts, though edible, have a skin which is astringent and unpleasant to eat when still moist; after drying for a time the thin skin loses its astringency but is still better removed to reach the white fruit underneath. Cooking dry in an oven or fire normally helps remove this skin. Chestnuts are traditionally roasted in their tough brown husks after removing the spiny cupules in which they grow on the tree, the husks being peeled off and discarded and the hot chestnuts dipped in salt before eating them. Roast chestnuts are traditionally sold in streets, markets and fairs by street vendors with mobile or static braziers.
The skin of raw peeled chestnuts can be relatively easily removed by quickly blanching the nuts after scoring them by a cross slit at the tufted end. Once cooked, chestnuts acquire a sweet flavour and a floury texture similar to the sweet potato. The cooked nuts can be used for stuffing poultry, as a vegetable or in nut roasts. They can also be used in confections, puddings, desserts and cakes. They are used for flour, bread making, a cereal substitute, coffee substitute, a thickener in soups and other cookery uses, as well as for fattening stock. A sugar can be extracted from them. The Corsican variety of polenta (called pulenta) is made with sweet chestnut flour. A local variety of Corsican beer also uses chestnuts. The product is sold as a sweetened paste mixed with vanilla, crème de marron, sweetened or unsweetened as chestnut purée or purée de marron, and candied chestnuts as marrons glacés. In Switzerland, it is often served as Vermicelles. ... ”
Medicinal and industrial uses:
“Leaf infusions are used in respiratory diseases and are a popular remedy for whooping cough. A hair shampoo can be made from infusing leaves and fruit husks.”
“The tree was a popular choice for landscaping in England, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. C. sativa was probably introduced to the region during the Roman occupation, and many ancient examples are recorded. More recently, the tree has been planted as a street tree in England, and examples can be seen particularly in the London Borough of Islington.”
“Roman soldiers were given chestnut porridge before going into battle.”