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Biodiversity Traditional chestnut named Swiss fruit of the year

sweet chestnuts on a branch

Chestnuts have been growing at altitude in Switzerland for centuries, but some traditional varieties are dying out. 

(Keystone)

The "Lüina" chestnut has been named Swiss fruit of the year by Fructus, an association that promotes preservation of fruit heritage and biodiversity. 

For centuries, chestnuts were an important source of basic food for the survival of people in the southern Alps, Fructusexternal link said on Saturday. Growing chestnut trees thus became a more complex activity, drawing on several varieties. One of these is the "Lüina", which has been grown in the Val Mesolcina in canton Graubunden and in canton Ticino since the 13th century. 

The variety is well-liked and is quite hardy, says Fructus. Over time it has adapted to growing in often steep places at altitudes of 300 to 1,000 metres. The fruit is quite small, aromatic and sweet. It comes easily out of its skin and is good for grilling, the association states. 

Despite initiatives to promote chestnut growing, the tradition is being abandoned, and the trees are also threatened by fungal diseases. Many varieties have already disappeared. There are currently 102 varieties in Switzerland. 

The "Lüina" and some other varieties are reproduced in cantonal schools of forestry, says Fructus, but they have difficulty competing with large southern varieties imported from the south that are often served as hot chestnuts. 

Keystone-SDA/jc

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