Who has the best nuts in Switzerland?

November 8, 2010, 5 Comments

At this time of year there’s one smell that wafts around every Swiss town. And I’m not talking about fondue or damp leaves. It’s the heavenly aroma of roast chestnuts. Come the end of October and little wooden huts spring up all over the country, particularly in the city centres, for just one reason: to sell freshly roasted chestnuts. The stands also sell clementines, peanuts and fudge but such diversification is superfluous: it’s the chestnuts (or Marroni as they are known locally) that everyone wants. But who has the best nuts in the country?

Last week the Blick am Abend newspaper carried out a completely unscientific but incredibly useful test in five Swiss cities: Basel, Bern, Luzern, St Gallen & Zurich. The testers bought 500g of chestnuts from various Marroni stands in each city, and looked to see how many nuts they got for that weight, how many were edible, and how much they cost. And the winner was…

The Marroni stand at Zytglogge in Bern. Not only does it have a great position beside Bern’s wonderful medieval clock tower (the name in Bernese means ‘time bell’), but it has the best chestnuts in Switzerland. The half-kilo bag contained 47 nuts, of which only two were inedible, and cost 15 francs. The other cities’ stands might have been a couple of francs cheaper, but the quality didn’t compare. Worst were the three in Zurich (at Bahnhofplatz, Paradeplatz and Stadelhofen), with an average of 43 nuts – and 11 inedible ones (including some with worms. Yuk!).

Inter-city rivalry is as strong in Switzerland as in any other country; there’s nothing neutral about the way many folk from Zurich, Bern and Basel talk about each other. It most often appears at football matches but it seems that chestnut stands are not exempt. At least this time the Bernese have beaten their rivals; their footballers, the Young Boys, haven’t won for years but their nuts are second to none.

Of course, I have tested the winning chestnuts personally (the things I do for this blog), and can say that my 100g were perfectly delicious. I love roasted Marroni, but what I like most about eating them in Switzerland is the paper bags they come in. Each is divided into two compartments, one full of hot chestnuts, and one for the empty shells. It just wouldn’t do to have chestnut shells littering the Swiss streets. Excessive control freakery, or amazing attention to detail? Who knows but I love those empty-shell compartments for just being there. They are so Swiss.

5 Comments on "Who has the best nuts in Switzerland?"

  1. Liz Monday November 8th, 2010 at 11:43 AM · Reply

    Hi Diccon,

    I salute your willingness to test roast chestnuts in the service of your loyal readers 😉
    Thanks again for the fun evening in Lausanne last Tuesday – I look forward to the next event!

    Best regards, Liz

  2. Rebecca Monday November 8th, 2010 at 02:57 PM · Reply

    Hurrah for Bern! What a wonderful description Diccon, you made me want to go out and buy some right away. The ones they were giving away at Stauffacher’s on Saturday didn’t have the empty shell compartments, but they made up for that by also giving away those unusually dark red apples with the white flesh that really are seasonal. They don’t keep well so you don’t end up getting mealy versions of them in February. Are you going to go to the onion market this year?

  3. Reto von Gunten Monday November 8th, 2010 at 09:51 PM · Reply

    How could the Blick have forgotten (ignored) to test in Brig? By far my favorite maroni just because they are the best cut.

  4. Jenny Bewes Monday November 8th, 2010 at 11:47 PM · Reply

    My mouth is watering……we missed them on our last visit. The nearest place I can find hot roasted chestnuts is in London. One lot I had last year were aleady peeled, which removed half the fun but a lot of litter as here the bags don’t have the second part for the shells. They cost £1 and there were only 9 nuts one of which was bad. But I do love roasting them over the log fire in the sitting room. The mixed aromas of both the burning logs and the roasting nuts creeps into every corner of the house. Wonderful.

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