CHUFA NUTS

At Tourne-Sol farm, we drill our apprentices in the importance of efficiency, profitability and priority setting. So it’s understandable that our apprentices  thought it was a hoot when we spent part of an afternoon on hands and knees riffling through the soil for bean-sized chufa tubers.

Still, I love these nuts and make a point of growing them for our seed catalogue and especially to snack on.

MEETING THE CHUFA NUT

Chufa nuts are also called tiger nuts or earth almonds. They have a nutty taste similar to coconuts that gets sweeter as they dry.

They are sometimes mistaken for yellow nutsedge (an invasive weed on many farms). In fact, chufa and yellow nutsedge are both varieties of Cyperus esculentus but with a couple key differences:

  • chufa tubers are a touch bigger than yellow nutsedge
  • chufa plants (and tubers) frost kill and therefore don’t overwinter in our Quebec climate

I’ll repeat that, chufa nuts are NOT invasive where the ground freezes heavily. Of course, before planting any chufa, make sure you aren’t buying mislabelled yellow nutsedge.

Chufa look like this (though a bit smaller):

GROWING CHUFA NUTS

Chufa nuts are usually propagated vegetatively. That means you plant a chufa nut to grow a chufa plant. (They don’t seem to set seed on our farm.)

This is how we plant chufa

  • Wait till after last spring frost (end of May for us)
  • Soak chufa nuts in water for 24 hours
  • Plant one inch deep
  • Space plants one foot apart from each other
  • Wait 1-2 to weeks to see first shoots emerge

After a few years of wrestling with weedy chufa plots, I now place a stick upright beside each planted chufa nut.  This way I know where to weed (and not to weed) as I wait to see the chufa plants.

A month or so later, the chufa plants are about 4″ tall. (This year, I tried intercropping a row of Korean shiso between two chufa rows.)

Mid summer, the chufa is nearing full height though the plants will keep growing in width. (At this point, I started to suspect that the Korean shiso’s growth habits might overcome the chufa.)

By early September, the Shiso was dominating the chufa.

At the end of September, when some of the leaves start browning and weather reports post frost warnings,  it’s harvest time!

HARVESTING CHUFA

We dig the plants out with trowels.

Then pull the tubers off the plant and dig around in the soil for any that might have been missed.

We toss the nuts and a fair amount of soil into a bin.

Then blast them with water in a spaghetti colander.

DRYING, CLEANING AND STORING CHUFA

You can eat the chufa right away, though it gets sweeter as it dries down.

We spread the chufa on screens in front of fans.

Once the chufa is dry, I use seed cleaning screens to sort out the biggest chufa for next year’s seed stock. I also remove the smallest nuts, stones, and dust. After the chufa has dried for another couple week, I screen it again to remove any nuts  that have shrunk since the last screening.

I store  dried chufa in a paper bag at ambient temperature. It holds quite well, I have some nuts that are two years old and looking fine – though I always use the freshest stock for planting.

EATING CHUFA

The easiest way is to pop in mouth and chew.

I have tried making a Spanish beverage called Horchata de Chufa where you soak the nuts for 12  hours with a cinnamon stick, then blend the nuts with water (remove cinnamon), strain the ensuing mixture, add sugar to taste, and drink. I wound up with something rather lumpy though not unpleasant. I’ll have to try it again.

Supposedly, ground chufa flower can also be used for baking though I can’t vouch for that.

——–

These days, we’re pretty much finished in the field. I just got back from giving crop planning workshops in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Olds, Alberta and now I’m switching gears to get into my own own crop planning.

The next couple posts, I’ll catch up on more seedy highlights from the last growing season!

About these ads

39 responses to “CHUFA NUTS

  1. hey danny,
    I certainly love me some chufa. Along with all the squash, this is my favorite thing to grow in our little garden.

    I started out last year by planting five or so chufas that you gave me (I ate the rest) and harvested about sixty last fall. This spring I planted about twenty and harvested several hundreds. I’ve saved 80 of the nicest one for next year’s crop. Within a few years I’ll be selling them on the web ;)

    One question: nutritionally speaking, is it a nut?

    • Hi Syl,

      Glad your harvest was a success. I was thinking about you when I wrote this post.

      Botanically chufa nuts are not not nuts. Nutritionally, I would imagine they are quite different from nuts too – probably less fats and protein. In fact water chestnuts (also a root and not a nut) are close cousins to chufa nuts.

      If you’re going to be selling chufa on the web, you should check out these guys: http://www.tigernuts.com/

  2. Good night,

    Do you know where we can order chufa’s in ontario or canada? Organic ones.. Thanks for the information.

    Peace

  3. Pingback: A First Year Going to Seed | Going to Seed

  4. Thank you for posting the info on harvesting chufas. I absolutely LOVE chufas and I am beyond excited to grow them this year.

    Are there a lot of tubers per plant?

    This woman also sells chufa nuts which I found when I was looking for Jerusalem artichokes (site en français).

    http://semences-jardinsnathalie.com/pages/page_12pag.html

    • Hi Magge,

      The yield per plant depends on weed pressure and soil quality. Under good conditions, we harvest about 100 tubers per plant.

      I didn’t know les jardins de Nathalie had chufa nuts. Though she does list them as souchet comestibles (French for Nutsedge) – if you purchase from her, make sure the tubers are annuals and not invasive perennials.

      Happy chufa!
      Dan

  5. Thanks for the headsup Dan. She confirmed them to be annuals.

  6. Dear friends,

    I live in Romania/ East Europe and i wish also to try to cultivate chufas for their high oil content.
    We live in a 7b hardiness area. Here would it be anual or perene?

    Best regards, Mira

    • Hi Mira,

      How deep does the ground freeze where you are? If it barely freezes, Chufa might be perennial.

      If you are worried about introducing an unwanted perennial to your ecosystem, you should only grow a small amount in your first year. If it survives the winter, promptly destroy the plants next year.

      Good luck!
      Dan

  7. Funny, I was going through my seed packets left from last years, and stumbled upon the chufa nut packet you sold me last spring at la Fête des Semences at the Jardin Botanique. I completely forgot what to do with these, so I searched Google and bam! your blog. The web is a small place! :)

    Because the spring here are long and cool, and the season rather short, I was vaguely thinking of starting the chufa inside, and to grow them in containers on my south-facing porch. Seems like it would also make picking the tuber much easier. I am a bit worried that they dried out or run out of space in the container, though. Do you think the idea has any merit?

    I have been missing you guys. Say hi to Emily and the gang on my part!

    • Hi Étienne,

      You can definitely grow chufa in a container. You would probably need a container about 1 foot deep for the root system. If you water a coupe of times a week, I think they’ll do fine.

      Keep me posted.

      I’ll say hi to the Tourne-Sol team for you.

      Dan

  8. Hi, do you know if I can grow chuffa in southern Saskatchewan (Regina area)? Great site!

    • Hi Rich,

      I think you can probably grow Chufa. We plant Chufa around at the end of May and harvest at the end of September – about 120 days. If your frost free period is much shorter, your yields might be lowered. Starting the plants indoors might offset that loss of yield.

      Good luck!
      Dan

  9. I got my chufa from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. in Mansfield, Mo. but mine are the size of large dried peas. I hope I have the real thing and not the imposter. Can you elucidate? Thanks

    • Hi Barbara,

      The chufa nuts I’ve grown are about a half inch to an inch in length – roughly the size of large dried peas. The picture of Baker Creeks website do look like chufa nuts.

      Good luck with your crop!
      Dan

  10. hi I was observing that Wild tukey who love Chufa will did up the seed if the find it before it sprouts to eat it but leaves it alone it makes it to sprouting. I am sure the seed has breaking down as it sprouts but would have thought it would still be intack enough to entice the turkeys to still attept to did them up. (I am glad they ceasethe destruction but was wondering ig you know why)

  11. Just finished picking and sorting through half of the ones that we harvested. I didn’t realize how hairy they are. The sifting and sorting seems to have got rid of most of it though.

    We had fun sorting through the dirt. Just when we though we got them all, there were another 10-15! Fun.

    They taste great – will be growing these again next year.

  12. Hi,
    I have been planting chufa nuts every summer for about 7 years now in Michigan and i love it. I always find it hard to save some for the next planting season cos it’s so tasty and i’m tempted to eat it all. i just wish it was sold in stores here in the u.s.
    For the first time, two of my chufa plants produced seeds after flowering and i was wondering if these will sprout just like the tuber if i plant it next summer?

    • Hi Francis,

      I would imagine your chufa seeds should germinate. Next year, it might be worth growing the chufa from seed in a separate plot from your chufa from tuber. That way you’ll see if there are any differences between the two. Especially whether the seeds might overwinter and potentially become a weed problem.

      I’d love to hear about your results.

      Dan

  13. Pingback: A Second Year Going to Seed | Going to Seed

  14. Dear sirs
    We are a traditional Spanish exporter of seed chufa for planting since 1987
    please see our web page http://www.chufas.net .Barcelona tel 0034934175322
    Best regards
    Lopez

  15. Will Bonsall

    SO GLAD to run into this site, since i’ve been trying to locate a source for small sample-size seed lots. That’s for myself and others, because i’m writing a garden book for Chelsea Green publishers, part of which features little-known and under-appreciated crops with human food potential (as opposed to wild turkeys, which seems to be the whole focus in SE US). I tried them many yrs ago and was well-impressed but never followed up. Have you ever tried that milky beverage the Spaniards make?

    • Hi Will,

      I have tried a homemade version of Horchata de Chufa but I wasn’t able to grind the nuts as finely as I imagine they do in Spain. It was OK but a bit of sugar and cinnamon go along way for most beverages!

      I look forward to reading your garden book,
      Dan

  16. I regularly make horchata from chufa nuts and the key is to strain through a very fine mesh sieve (or cheese cloth) after blending in water. You don’t need to grind too much.

    Here is what I do:
    I use about 1 litre of water for 250ml of dried chufa nuts, plus half a cinnamon stick and a half teaspoon of lemon zest.
    I blend in 2 separate batches in a regular blender for a couple of minutes per batch and then strain a couple of times and add 3-4 TBSP sugar (you can adjust sweetness as you like).
    I then refrigerate the horchata for an hour or so in a mason jar, give it a good shake, and serve.
    It does not keep, but then again, there never is anything left over.
    Marcus

    P.S. I can’t wait to try growing chufas this summer! Thanks for the great description.

  17. Hello,

    Seed World USA now carries Chufa / Tiger Nut Seeds please visit:

    http://www.seedworldusa.com/products/chufa-seed

    Thank you….

  18. Hi Daniel, Since your last visit here, we had an nice crop of fair-sized chufas, and are using them in various ways, my favourite being to grind and sift into a fine meal which i mix with four times as much cornmeal for an elegant-flavoured porridge. I’ve written an article for the MOFGA (MeOrgFarmGardenAssoc) newspaper about growing them, and thence my question: though i took some great photos of them at harvest, i cannot lay my hands on those at the moment and deadline is around the corner. What i’m asking is that if they don’t turn up in time, might i use yours, such as the one on your site – with you duly credited, of course?

    Will Bonsall

    • Hi Will,

      Funny, we actually had our worst chufa year last year! I think the drought slowed down their sizing up. I’m hoping to set up some irrigation on the crop next year in case we have another drought.

      I would be happy for you to use my pictures and credit them.

      We really loved our visit to your place. I’ve been hoping to get a bit of free time to post a brief synopsis of our visit.

      Take care.
      Dan

      • Will Bonsall

        Many thanks, Dan. And thanks to the others who have listed themselves as sources; i’ll include them in the source reference with my article. Should i also list Tournesol, or will you have a supply to offer? For now… Wil

      • Please list as a Canadian supply. We will have a larger volume this coming year!

        Dan

      • Will Bonsall

        Dan,,

        I found my photos, so i’ll not need yours, but thanks. And yes i’ll include that caveat in your source reference. My Chufa article will appear in the upcoming issue of the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener, which can be accessed on-line; just Google MOFGA and they’ll walk you to it.

        Will

  19. Hi, just a question I can’t find the answer to. You say to make sure it isn’t yellow nutsedge, what is the danger of that plant? Is it poisonous or edible? I purchased some chufa nuts, but they aren’t as big as the penny as you show in your picture so I am now concerned.

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Yellow nutsedge is a perennial weed that spreads through rhizomes, seeds, and tubers. It is quite invasive and can be hard to eliminate when it gets a foothold.
      In warm climates without harsh winters, chufa probably behaves similarly. However with our severe freezes, chufa doesn’t survive the winter. As such it isn’t invasive.

      Chufa can be smaller than a penny. It depends on the weather, irrigation, and fertility.

      If you have doubts about whether you have chufa or yellow mnutsedge, you should contact the person you received the tubers from and ask them about.

      Dan

    • Will Bonsall

      Suzanne,

      I fully concur with all of Dan’s comments. Smaller tuber size doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not chufa, just that they haven’t been as highly cultured or selected. Yellow nutsedge is not toxic, merely persistent to the point of being invasive, at least further south. I question whether either type is of concern in places like Maine or Quebec, certainly not chufa.

      Will Bonsall

  20. Pingback: "Tigernuts" - A Nutty Tuber or Tuby Nut? | Free The Animal

  21. Adebayo olufemi olufisayo

    I worked on effect of tuber sizes and irrigation frequency on growth and yield of Tigernut in my under graduate project the results is superb

    • I’m excited to hear about your results. This year we are growing some Chufa with drip irrigation. I’m excited to see what happens!

      Thanks for sharing,
      Dan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s