You can pick up them up for free, polished, a pretty brown avoiding the prickly shell so long as you can identify them. Don't confuse them with horse chestnuts, which are toxic. Sweet chestnuts have tapered tails and very prickly shells which split. Sweet chestnuts originate in Piedmont probably, having come over to the province of Britannia as a food supplement, like edible dormice, with the Romans. Here is 'Mont Blanc' a real Piedmontese dessert recipe (for two). Mont Blanc is not in Piedmont - but it was in 'Savoy' which was Piedmont formerly.
Mont Blanc - PIedmontese sweet chestnut dessert
Ingredients: half a pound of fresh chestnuts in their shells, pinch of fennel seeds, bay leaf, quarter cup of milk, dessertspoon of sugar, quarter cup of hard amaretti biscuits finely crushed, one tablespoon of cocoa, half a tablespoon of cognac or run (buy a miniature), half a cup of double cream, a couple of drops of vanilla.
Slit the chestnut shells and place on cold water with fennel seeds and bay lea. Bring to boil and cook for 40 minutes. Drain out seeds and bay leaf. Peel the chestnuts and add milk to them and simmer for another 10 minutes Mash peeled chestnuts and add sugar. Leave to stand or a bit. In a bowl, add crushed amaretti biscuits, cocoa and rum, or cognac. Cool. Puree chestnut mixture and pile up. Whip cream with vanilla to peaks (like Mont Blanc) and cover the chestnut mix to form the Alpine peak. Keep in fridge for two hours and serve.
|ABy Tangopaso - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28898681|