More than Words

The Chestnut Season In Zagreb

The season of chestnuts is upon us. If you enjoy them like me, you probably want the best chestnuts there are. Where can you find them? I did some research to help you with that.

Change of seasons

When you see that local stands around Zagreb's main square have changed their offer from boiled corn to roasted chestnuts, you know what season is slowly making its way. You can't really miss it, chestnuts begin to appear everywhere. They are being sold on the streets and in supermarkets, almost every pastry shop has its version of the classic chestnut puree, some even make chestnut cakes.

Image credit: Ivona Kezić

What is so special about chestnuts? Don't get me wrong, I love them. Some of my earliest memories are my grandma roasting chestnuts right on top of the stove, cutting them as she would say "To give them a smile" from side to side, before putting them on a pan and turning them from side to side every now and then so they are evenly baked. My sister and I couldn't wait for them to be done and we had fun eating them because you had to make an effort to remove the shell. That made chestnuts all the tastier.

Image credit: Ivona Kezić

So the real question is, where can you find the best chestnuts in Zagreb?

If you are looking for local chestnuts, I recommend local open markets. There you can mostly find chestnuts picked at Sljeme, Zagreb's famous mountain peak. Some experienced chestnut pickers claim that the sweetest chestnuts can be found above Zagreb's neighbourhoods Markuševec and Trnava but there are pretty good ones in other neighbourhoods like Kustošija and Mikulići.

Image credit: S. Kaštelan, TZGZ

As I mentioned earlier, Zagreb is famous for its local stands and some of the salesmen have been doing that since the 1970s. They claim that local chestnuts are a little bit smaller so they often sell imported chestnuts, mostly maroons from Italy and Spain. They are a little bigger and sweeter so they sell better.

I have to admit that I wouldn't be able to notice the difference because I enjoy chestnuts too much to analyze them. Luckily, not everyone is like me so they can recommend where they are better or even give some tricks for roasting the perfect chestnut. The old Zagrebian trick is to roast chestnuts over a charcoal fire. That smoke gives them that special taste that chestnut salesmen achieve best. It's not the same as doing it at home on your gas stove or induction hob, trust me I tried.

Image credit: Ivona Kezić

Maybe you want to try something else and go chestnut picking for the first time. It's a great way to connect with nature and to stay active but you need a permit for that. You can get your daily, weekend or weekly permit from the Forestry department and enjoy chestnut picking for a fair price. The trick is to follow areas that have sunny southern slopes, which are always full of chestnuts.

Image credit: J. Duval, TZGZ

Delicious chestnut desserts!

All of this sounds great, but if you're like me, you're probably thinking about those chestnut cakes and purees that I mentioned earlier. Don't worry, I've got you covered. I did some research and went around Zagreb to try a few of those delicious treats, for scientific purposes, of course, and I wasn't surprised to find a very broad and rich offer of desserts. And tasty. Very tasty. If you want to try chestnut purees, my favourites are from pastry shops Vincek, Orijent and Amelie. Trust me, you won't regret it. If you like chestnuts but don't really like that dominant puree texture, Jolie Petite Patisserie has a delicious chestnut cake that looks as good as it tastes.

And that's it for this chestnut rhapsody. Try it for yourself, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. :)

Header image credit: Ivona Kezić

Author: Ivona Kezić