The Appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) label, awarded by the European Commission, designates a product that is particular to a certain region.
In the case of the ‘châtaigne des Cévennes’, the chestnuts must have been grown in the historic Cévennes region, which encompasses the modern départements of Herault, Gard and Lozère.
There are an estimated 70 growers in the area, producing 120 tonnes of chestnuts per year – in the autumn chestnuts can be seen piled high on market stalls and featuring in many traditional autumn recipes. The classic French Christmas dessert is a bûche de noël with a chestnut paste filling.
The Cévennes chestnuts join more than 200 French products that have AOP status, from cheeses to wines and spirits, meat, vegetables and even butter.
The AOP mark specifies that a product must be produced in a certain region and made in a certain way – over the summer several French cheeses temporarily lost their AOP mark because the designation specified that it was made by milk from grass-fed cows and the drought meant that the cows were eating hay.
AOP is not a quality mark, although as it tends to be awarded to artisan producers, AOP products are generally of high quality.