Tigernut (Cyperus esculentus)
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Cyperus esculentus (Chufa Sedge, Yellow Nutsedge, Tigernut Sedge, Earthalmond) is a species of sedge native to warm temperate to subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is an annual or perennial plant, growing to 90 cm tall, with solitary stems growing from a tuber. The stems are triangular in section, and bear slender leaves 3-10 mm wide. The flowers of the plant are distinctive, with a cluster of flat oval seeds surrounded by four hanging leaves positioned 90 degrees from each other. The plant foliage is very tough and fibrous, and is often mistaken for a grass.
There are several varieties:
Zohary and Hopf consider this tuber “ranks among the oldest cultivated plants in Ancient Egypt.” Although noting that “Chufa was no doubt an important food element in ancient Egypt during dynastic times, its cultivation in ancient times seems to have remained (totally or almost totally) an Egyptian specialty.” They were used to make cakes in ancient Egypt. Presently, they are cultivated mainly, at least for extended and common commercial purposes, in Spain, where they were introduced by Arabs, almost exclusively in the Valencia region.
The tubers are edible, with a slightly sweet, nutty flavour, compared to the more bitter tasting tuber of the related Cyperus rotundus (Purple Nutsedge). They are quite hard and are generally soaked in water before they can be eaten. They have various uses; in particular, they are used in Spain to make horchata. They are sometimes known by their Spanish name, “chufa”.