A species native to Corsica, the chestnut tree is, like the oak, the pine, and the olive tree, an essential element of the island’s landscape. The chestnut tree was called the « bread tree » not only because of its omnipresence in the countryside, but also due to its importance in the local diet. In Evisa, it is one of the representative trees classified as a tree of public interest” since 2008.
This tree is naturally present in the area and has been used for everyday consumption in the form of numerous by-products. After having been heavily damaged by disease and abandoned, the chestnut groves are now experiencing quite a revival.
The story of the bread tree
Around the end of the 16th century, Genoa incited the Corsicans to plant fruit trees of the « five species »: chestnut, fig and olive trees, blackberry bushes, and grapevines.
In the year 1643 alone, the number of chestnut trees planted and grafted was estimated at over 160 000. Some of the consequences of Genovese policy were: the transformation, the layout and the creation of a mountain landscape, the modelling of social organizations and the setting up of private property regulation in which one could be the owner of the trees without necessarily being the owner of the land (customary law on the property of public scrubland).Up until the end of the 19th century, we talked about Corsica in terms of a “chestnut civilisation”. The bread tree, the main source of food of the island, appeared to be a strategic element: Pascal Paoli who realised its importance, declared that « as long as we have chestnuts, we will have bread »
Modern day forestry of the Chestnut groves
Evisa and its region has been a central pole for chestnut cultivation and breeding for a long time. Whereas the production of dried meats from pig farming has remained much the same, the produce from the fruit of the chestnut trees has been highly modernised
This modernisation has been brought about by that of production tools and machines and also by the perspectives of product development of local varieties. Indeed, the superior quality of the taste of the Insidina variety, called Marron d’Evisa (Evisa Chestnut), has permitted their transformation into candied chestnuts, which has brought about a high reputation and an appreciation of the local product.
The local pig farmers have continued to apply their ancient know-how regarding their dried meat industry: abundant production of chestnuts and acorns gives a special flavour to the free range pigs and an exceptional quality of charcuterie.
The production of chestnut flour has continued in the region; many producers have subscribed to the
The chestnut tree’s role
At the time of the village’s self-sufficiency, the chestnut groves made up a constituent part of the countryside as well as being a life necessity.
As a food source, it offers various dishes depending on whether the chestnuts are used fresh, for roasting or boiling; or dried for transformation into flour. It is an essential basic ingredient in many recipes: polenta, doughnuts, flans, pancakes, cakes, bread… These days notable products are made: le marron glacé d’Evisa – candied chestnuts..
Crafts based on working the chestnut tree wood give us different useful objects such as cooperage, carpentry, varied utensils, coffins, but also housing framework and fencing.
The countryside still bears traces of theses agricultural traditions, but the rural exodus, disease (bleeding canker, canker) and post war mass felling were the causes of the abandon of forestry activities. Since then, fallow land has gained ground, homogenising the landscape. The country-side is also scattered with small farm buildings.