As dates on the Christmas calendar go, December 14th doesn’t usually take much prominence. But at Christmas FM, we’re hoping to change that – even if it’s only for this year!

That’s because, in the U.S. at least, today is known as Roast Chestnut Day – a day that celebrates our favourite arborous by-product.

Chestnuts are the edible seeds of the chestnut tree – better known in Ireland as conkers.  The sweet, starchy seeds sit inside a prickly outer shell called the burr, which splits open as they ripen.

They originally became a staple in mountainous regions around the Mediterranean thousands of years ago, in part because most cereal grains couldn’t grow in these areas.

Roasting chestnuts dates back centuries, when people used to turn up the heat on the nuts during the winter months.

However, there’s no consensus on when and where people began the roasting chestnuts around Christmas.

Early Christians believed the chestnut symbolized chastity, which, although not associated with Christmas, does allude to religious beliefs.

Some historians say that roasting chestnuts dates back to the 16th century, when vendors sold the treat on the streets of Rome. Other scholars put their debut in Portugal for St. Martin’s Day, and in Modena, Italy, for St. Simon’s Day.

In fact, chestnuts are packed with health benefits: they’re lower in calories and contain less fat than other nuts and seeds; they’re also high in fibre and packed with minerals (manganese, potassium, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and iron) and vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamin, folate, and riboflavin).

Cooked, peeled chestnuts can be added to stuffing, rice or savoury pie filling. Alternatively, they can be incorporated into soups, stews, casseroles, or vegetable dishes.

So the next time you’re thinking of smashing your chestnuts to pieces in September, think ahead to the winter months and know that you could be wasting some hearty supplements.