We arrived at Exeter General Store to meet Jill and Nick from Foodpath Culinary Tours. It turned out everyone piked out but the four of us. Crazy people that we are! Thankfully, the rain had eased to a drizzle by the time we arrived at the farm about 15 mins drive from Exeter. Thank you God for listening to my prayers! Jill handed us some buckets and gloves. Dennis, the owner of Pinehaven, gave us instructions on what to do, which trees to choose, explained the two different chestnut varieties and off we went.
We didn't know that there are two different types of chestnuts - one for boiling and the other for roasting. There are subtle characteristics to differentiate the two. The ones for boiling are slightly smaller in size and darker in colour. The roasting chestnuts are bigger and have a lovely mahogany colour. Learnt something new today. The chestnut trees are not big. The nuts are encased in a spiky outer shell which drops to the ground when ripen. The spiky outer shell will open and you can see usually 2 or 3 nuts inside. You need to wear gloves to pick the chestnuts as the spikes are very sharp. The best way to prise the shell is to use your feet, preferably wearing covered shoes e.g. boots. Most of the ground area under each tree is covered with the 'fruits' and it was easy to just pick the chestnuts from the ground. It's manual labour and can be back-breaking if you're doing it for long.
After the tour, we went off to our friends' home in the Southern Highlands for lunch before heading home. It was a long day for all of us but one that we thoroughly enjoyed the family bonding time.