The Cevennes Chestnut is one of France’s newest agricultural products benefitting from Protected Designation of Origin status, but the history of this agricultural tradition dates all the way back to the 11th Century. Over the ages, chestnut groves, which grew to cover 120,000 acres across its region of production, became the epicenter of an ecosystem where the « bread tree » fed peasants in the Cevennes area and their pigs, as well as their goats and sheep on the leaves and undergrowth from the trees, while the wood was used for making floors, furniture, and carpentry.
However, during the 20th Century, the local production started to decline due to an exodus of the local rural population and as some of the orchards were converted to other uses. Now, a small number of producers are bringing the Cevennes Chestnut back, using traditional, time-tested methods of production and little-to-no mechanical intervention.
The region of production for this new geographic indication covers a part of the French départements of Gard, Hérault, Lozère and a few small parts of Aveyron and Tarn, all in a mountainous area of south-central France. There are about 250 different producers of chestnuts in this area.
Traditionally eaten during the holidays, chestnuts can be consumed in a variety of ways. The standard way of making them includes boiling them for about 30 minutes, baking them in the oven or grilling them. They can also be used in crêpes, salads, creams, soups and dozens of other recipes.
Cevennes Chestnuts are also used for making candied chestnuts, a popular traditional sweet treat enjoyed around the winter holidays in France. The candied chestnut originated in southern France, and consists of a candied chestnut glazed in sugary syrup.