Famous for their delicious taste, the Var chestnut is eaten grilled or frozen. They are produced in the Maures Massif, whose villages, especially Collobrières, celebrate the chestnut every autumn.
The chestnut forests in the Var are mostly found in the Maures Massif: 2000 hectares across the villages of Collobrières (the chestnut capital), La Garde-Freinet, Gonfaron, Les Mayons and Pignans.
The almost total absence of fencing in the chestnut forests means they are completely authentic and smell of freedom.
In the villages in the Maures Massif and plains, small producers sell chestnut jam or cream, purée and other chestnut-based products: Cast’Ânes, the Godissard chestnut forest and the Azuréenne Sweet Factory in Collobrières, and the Maures apiary with Lucien and Marc Lamoine in Mayons.
A craftsman creates unusual chestnut wood baskets in Collobrières.
Collobrières is the chestnut capital and its Chestnut Festivals during the last 3 Sundays in October are unmissable.
In the Maures Massif and the Var more generally, other villages also celebrate the chestnut, especially during October: Gonfaron, La Garde-Freinet, Les Mayons, Pignans, and in some years, Toulon, Tanneron and Camps-la-Source.
Roast chestnuts and new wine tasting, farmers’ markers and craft markets are all part of the festival.
The Var chestnut
There are various local varieties:
- The ‘Marron du Var’ and the ‘Sardonne’, which has a fine and sugary flesh.
- The ‘Impériale’ variety, which is hardier and less demanding than the previous varieties
- The sometimes floury ‘Batarde’
- The ‘Miquelin’ with small, reddish nut
- The ‘Pignansie’, an unusual variety with pointed dark-coloured nuts, with a sugary taste. It is unafraid of the Mistral wind.
- The ‘Beltassie’
They are classed according to their calibre into ‘Small’ (over 95 fruits per kg), ‘Marchande’ (85-95 fruits per kg) and ‘Belle’ (less than 65 fruits per kg). Known for their excellent taste, Var chestnuts are almost all sold for direct consumption (fresh or grilled).
So…’chatâigne’ or ‘marron’?
If you ask this simple question to a chestnut grower, they will give an ambiguous response, since each chestnut grower produces both ‘chatâigne’ and ‘marron’ chestnuts in different proportions and sizes, depending on the variety. If we ask a confectioner or scientist, the nut called a ‘chatâigne’ is split into segments, i.e. a piece of skin that divides the nut, but the ‘marron’ is not split, and remains whole when opened.
The chestnut grower produces ‘chatâignes’ if the proportion of split fruits is largely than 12% and ‘marrons’ if it is less.
In our department the ‘marrouge’ (Var ‘marron’), a typical local variety, is unusual in producing small ‘marrons’ and large ‘chatâignes’.