Chestnut grove in Ticino

There is a long history of chestnut cultivation and consumption in Switzerland, particularly in the southern regions. During the 20th century, chestnut has evolved from a staple food to a popular confectionery ingredient.

The chestnut was introduced in Ticino during the Roman era. Chestnut grove and coppice management replaced slash-and-burn agriculture. The climate of southern Switzerland particularly suited the chestnut, to the point it became known as the "bread tree".[1][2] The chestnut was also introduced in the southern valleys of the Grisons[3] and Valais.

Castasegna coat of arms
Castandeda coat of arms
Castandeda coat of arms
Castasegna, Castaneda and Breggia coats of arms, featuring chestnut trees

Chestnut cultivation declined in the 18th century, when potatoes and maize were introduced in Switzerland. It remained however an important staple food for the poors until the early 20th century;[3] the Siegfried Map introduced a specific symbol for chestnut groves in 1914.[4] The maintenance of chestnut groves ceased during the 20th century due to diseases and declined after the massive exploitation of wood for tannin factories.[3]

Since the 1990s, chestnut groves and chestnuts have been of interest to tourists and local communities started their revalorization.[3] Today, 98% of Swiss chestnut trees are found on the south side of the Alps (Ticino and the Grisons),[4] for instance in the Malcantone and Val Bregaglia. Chestnut groves are also found in Valais, particularly in Fully and Saint-Gingolph,[5] and various other locations around Lake Lucerne and the Walensee.[6]

The consumption of chestnuts today is essentially festive. Ticino restaurants and pastry chefs all over Switzerland also make vermicelli, an autumnal dessert consisting of a sweet chestnut purée and whipped cream.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Stefano Mazzoleni (2004). Recent Dynamics of the Mediterranean Vegetation and Landscape. John Wiley & Sons. p. 237. ISBN 9780470093702. Thus, for many centuries the chestnut was the "bread tree" par excellence, the principal – if not the only – source of subsistence in the mountains for the local population. Concerning southern Switzerland, we know that the introduction of the chestnut took place 2000 years ago, triggering a revolution in landscape management, namely from a slash-and-burn agricultural approach to chestnut grove and coppice management.
  2. ^ "La Svizzera italiana riscopre "l'albero del pane"". Swissinfo. 26 November 2003. Retrieved 1 March 2023. Patate, polenta ma soprattutto castagne: ecco come si "tirava avanti" nella Svizzera a sud delle Alpi. Dopo la seconda guerra mondiale sono arrivati gli anni dell'abbondanza e la castagna è stata dimenticata. [Potatoes, polenta but above all chestnuts: this is how they "got by" in Switzerland south of the Alps. After the Second World War the years of plenty arrived and the chestnut was forgotten.]
  3. ^ a b c d e "Castagne". Culinary Heritage of Switzerland. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  4. ^ a b "The chestnut wood – a remarkable symbol on the Siegfried Map". Federal Office of Topography swisstopo. Swiss Confederation. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  5. ^ Boillat, Christophe (6 May 2019). "Une châtaigneraie pour renouer avec son passé". 24 heures. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  6. ^ "Châtaigne (nord des Alpes)". Culinary Heritage of Switzerland. Retrieved 28 February 2023.