IT’S one of the sure signs that autumn has arrived. Take a walk through any town in southern Spain at this time of year and you are bound to see street vendors, known as castañeras, roasting chestnuts on their mobile stoves.
Wrapped in paper they keep your hands warm as you walk and eat and have an earthy and slightly sweet flavour.
Eating roast chestnuts – and drinking copious amounts of red wine – is all part of the traditional holiday of the Dia del Toston. This takes place every year on November 1, and families normally drive into the countryside to celebrate.
The chestnut tree, originally from the Eastern Mediterranean, was introduced into Spain by the Romans and became a staple of the Galician diet.
Up in Galicia they take their chestnut eating seriously. The magosto is a celebration that takes place on November 11 and is an important holiday, especially in Orense that also celebrates the town’s patron saint, San Martin, on the same day.
Families head into the countryside to roast chestnuts and chorizos over open fires, and once again drink copious amounts of wine!
There are several areas in Andalucía where chestnuts are cultivated, but in particular they can be found in the Genal Valley villages of Igualeja, Pujerra and Cartajima, just 30 minutes inland from Marbella.
An important point to note if you are thinking of throwing your own toston party is that you are only allowed to light bonfires in designated barbecue areas.
Most Town Halls have municipal barbecues in their parks. Lighting an open fire in the campo not only carries a high risk of starting a forest fire, but could also land you with a hefty fine.
Also, make sure that you don’t confuse the sweet chestnuts with the more poisonous horse chestnuts. They are only good for conkers!