A prickly little treasure

THE PERFECT MOMENT
  • 8 november
  • 10°
  • 317 m
  • Nostalgic

Chestnuts are associated with history, food, tradition and fun in Ticino. Every child has visited one of the many chestnut woods dotted throughout the canton to gather these delicious nuts that can be roasted in their shells or turned into tasty vermicelles, a delicious flour, crunchy cereal or an aromatic beer. While tasting these products can be a real journey of discovery, learning about how they are made is also full of surprises.

You’re in Moghegno, at the entrance to the Maggia Valley, as lots of children all around you are “emptying the grà”: it’s a great celebration. What’s it all about?
As you’ve been told, a grà is a type of ancient chestnut storage building found in almost all of Ticino’s towns. However, there only a few are still in use today: in Moghegno, Vezio and Muggio.
Arranged over two floors, a fire is lit on the ground floor, which has to be kept alight and smoking constantly for around three weeks (between October and November). Upstairs, several hundred kilos of chestnuts are spread over a grate to dry. Once they’ve been cleaned, they are ground and the flour is used to make all sorts of delicious things!
You didn’t know any of this until a few weeks ago, when you happened to pass through Moghegno and you saw a crowd of curious children, each holding a small bag of chestnuts gathered in the woods. You asked what was happening and they told you that it’s an ancient tradition, which dates back to when chestnuts were the main food source in Ticino and the plant they grew on was simply known as “the tree”.

A treasure that now must slowly dry up

A treasure that now must slowly dry up

Children deposit precious fruits

Children deposit precious fruits

All in a row with chestnuts on their shoulders

All in a row with chestnuts on their shoulders

What could the Grà be?

What could the Grà be?

The fire must be lit for one month

The fire must be lit for one month

That house is smoking

That house is smoking

Beat the bags hard to peel off the chestnut peel

Beat the bags hard to peel off the chestnut peel

We must clean the fruits well

We must clean the fruits well

The roast chestnuts you enjoy so much in Ticino’s squares, warmed by the autumn sun, are now flavoured with history too.

Even walks through the chestnut woods with your family have become more interesting. You sing the song known to every child in Ticino: “sotto il castagno / cresce un funghetto …” (under the chestnut tree / a mushroom grows ...) and your happiness knows no bounds.

Your children love looking for chestnuts and you are enjoying it too. It almost reminds you of hunting for Easter eggs.

Marialuce Valtulini, - Cheesemaker
Marialuce Valtulini,Cheesemaker
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BELLINZONA - WHAT'S THE WEATHER LIKE

24°
  • Saturday 21 September
  • Max 24° / Min 11°
  • Precipitation 0%

WHAT'S THE WEATHER LIKE IN THE NEXT DAYS

Sun

13°/19°

Mon

12°/20°

Tue

10°/22°

Wed

12°/21°

IN THE SURROUNDINGS

USEFUL INFO

Do you like gathering chestnuts but don’t know what to do with them? During the autumn in Ticino there are four collection centres in a Cadenazzo, Muzzano, Stabio and Biasca that will repay you for your efforts.


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