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It is that time of the year in Northern Spain.  Chestnut season.  Throughout Northern Spain folks head to the forests and collect chestnuts (castañas). Many small villages and even local bars host a chestnut roast (magosta).  We have been to the forest several times over the past few weeks to collect chestnuts for the family. We have also attended several fun magostas.

We have quite a few good chestnut forests near us and this year was a great year.  The chestnuts have been particularly good, very flavorful and plentiful. Most of us in the family love them, although some more than others. Lynne had never been so I took her to my favorite spot.  It´s a bit off the beaten track and a spot nobody really goes to as it´s not right by a road.  The floor of the forest was literally covered with them.

Chestnuts Northern Spain

Lynne on her first chestnut hunt

As the chestnuts ripen they fall to the ground in their prickly pods or burrs.  It´s always helpful to wear gloves as the pods are like little porcupines.  The chestnuts were so plentiful this year that we didn´t really have to mess with the burrs becasue there were so many chestnuts out on the ground.  In the picture below you can see a range of burrs from completely closed to completely open with the chestnuts on the ground.

Chestnut burrs

Picking chestnuts you have to be careful to choose ones without holes in them as those have worms. A bit hard to see but if you look close, you can see that the chestnuts in the open pod second from the right have tiny holes in the top. These have unwanted guests.  Lynne and I spent a couple of hours collecting and came down from the forest with about 20kgs (45 pounds) of chestnuts.

Chestnuts Cantabria

Gloves, baskets and backpacks…20kgs of chestnuts

We took the bounty home and picked them over again to get rid of any that had holes.  We then cleaned them up a bit by giving them a rinse in the sink to get any dirt and grime off.  The family was pleased when we arrived with the harvest and everyone grabbed a few kgs for their own home.  My nieces were in town from Madrid and love them so they got to take a bunch home as well.  We have been enjoying them for the last few weeks and my aunt is running out and asked me to make another run (although I think it´s a bit late).

You can either boil or roast them.  I prefer them roasted and if it´s over an open flame even better.  At home we roast them in the oven.  You have to make a small slit in the shell before roasting or they´ll blow up and you don´t really want chestnuts shooting around.   Here´s the classic “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” for you.

Magosta Cantabria

Jack frost was nipping at our noses too…

This shot is from one of the magostas we attended this year.  Many villages in our area celebrate them.  They village folks head up to the forest to collect the chestnuts then host a big roast for everyone.  It´s always a lively event accompanied with local folk music and an all around good time.  Many local bars also put them on a smaller scale.  Here are some shots from some of the magostas we attended this year.

Northern Spain Magosta

The roasting crew hard at work to fill the wheelbarrows

Cantabria Magosta Repartiendo

Handing out the chestnuts by the wheelbarrow full


Enjoying some local music at the magosta


Magosta: Chestnuts, music and fall fun

MAgosta intima

Enjoying music at a magosta at a local bar

I love every season in Northern Spain as each one has its rewards.  It´s fall and right now it´s my favorite.  It brings some of my favorite things: red deer rutting, chestnuts and magostas, ranchers fairs (post to come) and the year´s best wild mushrooms (post to come).   Colder weather, heartier food and beautiful fall colors… just a few more of the joys of having all four seasons.