is smooth and very fine, although not as silky as common white flour. In the past, the procedure for obtaining chestnut flour was very long and laborious. After harvesting the chestnuts, they were dried in a special oven, built specifically in the woods or inside the farmer's house, called a 'caniccio', similar to a two-storey house where, in the lower floor, the fire was produced by burning the chestnut wood, whilst on the upper floor, well spaced out, there were trellises with small holes, so that the chestnuts would not fall down and on which the chestnuts would be left to dry for several days in a row, even for a whole month. The difficulty was in being able to keep the fire lit and constant for all those days. Then, once dried, the chestnuts were shelled, peeled and grinded with stone. Nowadays, there are much quicker and cheaper methods to produce chestnut flour and few remain who keep the tradition of the caniccio and the stone mill alive.
Chestnut flour was an essential food for the poor families of the Italian mountainous and wooded areas, especially in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines where historians speak of the existence of a veritable "chestnut civilisation", because it is very nutritious and caloric, ideal for facing the winter, and also because it can be conserved for a long time, the only care that needed to be taken - as is also true today - was to store it in a closed and airless environment, usually placed inside a well-pressed wooden case, because chestnut flour tends to be easily attacked by worms.
Rich in protein, fibre and vitamins, chestnut flour is useful for intestinal bacterial flora and cholesterol. Let's find out more. Chestnut flour is obtained through the drying and subsequent grinding of chestnuts. It is very fine, of a light hazelnut colour and sweet in taste - indeed, it is also called sweet flour. It is mainly produced in mountain areas below 900 metres above sea level, where the domestic chestnut tree grows. The dried chestnuts, or the seeds of the chestnut tree from which the flour is derived, are rich in carbohydrates and mineral salts such as potassium, iron, calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus and chlorine. Chestnuts also contain fibre, proteins and vitamins. The vitamins are C, PP and B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6). Amongst the disadvantages, it is to be considered that chestnuts promote abdominal swelling and are not recommended for diabetics, whilst they are very useful for those who practice sports or are subject to physical or psychological stress. The fibres facilitate intestinal transit, rebalancing the intestinal bacterial flora and providing effective help in reducing cholesterol. Chestnut flour can be used both for sweet and savoury products.