Today buying quality chestnut flour can be difficult, and it is certainly more expensive than it used to be. Yet it is one of the most fundamental ingredients of the cucina povera of the Tuscan mountains, from Garfagnana and Pistoia to Amiata and Mugello.
In the years of famine and poverty, chestnuts have supported the local population with their high-calorie content and versatility.
When the chestnuts become flour, they can be turned into polenta, porridge, bread, cakes, biscuits, fresh pasta, and necci (a type of Tuscan crepe).
In autumn chestnuts are collected and dried for forty days in a little hut in the woods known as a metato, where the fire is fed with chestnut wood. Once dried, they are gradually ground into flour by millstones.
The best time to buy the chestnut flour is therefore after the second half of November when the new flour is finally available at the market.
The old mill Rossi in Fivizzano dates back to 1898 and today they are still considered the best at milling cereals and chestnuts as they still use a heavy, traditional millstone.
Chestnut flour has been known for centuries as farina dolce (sweet flour). Why? Put a pinch of chestnut flour on your tongue and let it melt. It is exactly like chewing into a sweet and dry chestnut.