Secret Gathering

Legend has it that 150 years ago a Spaniard wandered from the Valley of Heart's Delight (now known…

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Legend has it that 150 years ago a Spaniard wandered from the Valley of Heart’s Delight (now known as Silicon Valley) to plant a chestnut orchard high in the hills above Palo Alto. Today this little-known spot is home to one of the oldest chestnut orchards on the West Coast, Skyline Chestnuts. At this u-pick haven, owner Hans Johsens will give you a bucket and some gloves for picking (you need the gloves to handle the prickly apple-sized burrs that hold the chestnuts). But save a little room in your bucket: Johsens’s ten- and twelve-year-old sons, Cody and Parker (pictured), with cowboy hats and thumbs hitched on their belt loops, will guide you on a short hike to the second highest point in San Mateo County, where the orchard’s prized “honey tree” bears gigantic, smoky-flavored nuts. The window for gathering these super-healthy and protein-packed snacks is very short—so go nuts soon!

TIP: Johsens’s secret to roasting chestnuts? Get a chestnut pan with holes in the bottom (he sells them for $15), cut an X on the back of the chestnuts, drizzle a little olive oil in a pan, and cook over an open fire. (This recipe can also be found on the back of Skyline Chestnuts’s business cards.)

Skyline Chestnuts is located at 22322 Skyline Blvd., 2.5 miles south of Page Mill Rd. intersection in La Honda. Open weekends, 9 a.m. to around 5 p.m., from now until the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Chestnuts are $5 per pound.

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