Monday, May 01, 2006


More about chestnuts

My wife has been doing some research into the history of chestnuts in Corsica for a project. In doing so, she has answered a question that has always intrigued me... The French have two words for a chestnut - "marron" and "chataigne": what is the difference?

It seems that a marron is a nut with no division - ie there is only one nut within the outer case. In the case of a chataigne, the nut is divided. Simple, eh? Er, no. Chestnut trees usually bear both divided nuts and undivided nuts on the same tree. So are these "marroniers" or "chataigniers"? It seems that if a tree has less than 12 per cent of its nuts of the divided variety, it's a marronier. If the proportion of divided nuts exceeds 12 per cent, then it's a chataignier!

The history of Corsica is inextricably bound up with the chestnut. Back in mediaeval times when the Genoese and Pisans were in charge of things, the island's inhabitants were encouraged to grow chestnut trees by threats of punishment if they didn't. Things were reversed in the early days of French rule, however, when the cultivation of chestnuts was forbidden by Royal decree: folk were told to try growing wheat and maize instead. It clearly wasn't a great success as a piece of legislation - the island is still full of chataigniers and marroniers.

How many of each, I'm afraid I haven't a clue.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

counter customizable free hit