How To Grow Tiger Nuts

Grow the Tubers Used to Make Horchata de Chufa

Tiger nuts or chufa (Cyperus esculentus) is an ancient and widely grown crop, easily grown but rarely seen in kitchen gardens. They are part of the Sedge family, along with water chestnuts and papyrus.

  1. Source tubers. Tiger nuts are difficult to find in seed catalogues, but you may be able to find them in health food shops. They are used as carp bait, so it's possible you will also find them at your local fishing supply store. They will look dry and wrinkled, but they can be stored for over a year and still germinate.
  2. Sow in spring. Tiger nuts are not frost hardy, so if you are sowing them directly outside you need to wait until the last frost date has passed. You can sow them earlier under cover. They grow well in containers, and can be sown in modules and transplanted. Tubers need to be planted 5 cm deep and around 15 cm apart.
  3. Use fertile soil. Use a rich potting mix or sow your tiger nuts in fertile soil.
  4. Keep moist. Tiger nuts like having wet feet and do well around the edges of ponds. If yours are in containers you can sit them in trays of water to keep them continuously damp. They will cope with drier soil, but will appreciate being watered well in dry weather.
  5. Do not feed. Excess nitrogen will encourage leafy growth at the expense of tuber formation, so don't feed your tiger nuts.
  6. Enjoy. Tiger nuts form a grassy clump, and are very ornamental. They are unlikely to flower, and any flowers produced are very understated.
  7. Protect from frost. Tiger nuts appreciate a long season as the tubers start to form after midsummer. If you can take them into a greenhouse and protect them from frost you will get a larger harvest.
  8. Harvest. Dig up or tip out your plants when the tops have turned yellow or the plants have been killed by frost. The tubers are the size of small pebbles, and tan, and will be scattered throughout the dense roots. The roots have a pungent, spicy smell.
  9. Clean. The tubers will need to be washed thoroughly before they can be eaten or used to make horchata. They are edible raw, and taste sweet, or lightly cooked.
  10. Save some for next year. Save some tubers to replant for next year - dry them off and they store very well.


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