Herbs & Plants

Cyperus esculentus

Botanical Name ; Cyperus esculentus
Family: Cyperaceae
Genus: Cyperus
Species: C. esculentus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Poales

Common Names ;Chufa, Chufa sedge, Nut grass, Yellow nutsedge, Tiger nut sedge, or Earth almond

Habitat :Cyperus esculentus is native to most of the Western Hemisphere as well as southern Europe, Africa, Madagascar, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent. It has become naturalized in many other regions, including Ukraine, China, Hawaii, Indochina, New Guinea, Java, New South Wales and various oceanic islands. It can be found wild, as a weed, or as a crop. There is evidence for its cultivation in Egypt since the sixth millennium BC, and for several centuries in Southern Europe. In Spain, C. esculentus is cultivated for its edible tubers, called earth almonds or tiger nuts, for the preparation of “horchata de chufa”, a sweet, milk-like beverage. However, in most other countries, C. esculentus is considered a weed.
Cyperus esculentus is an annual or perennial plant, growing to 90 cm (3 feet) tall, with solitary stems growing from a tuber. The plant is reproduced by seeds, creeping rhizomes, and tubers. The stems are triangular in section and bear slender leaves 3–10 mm (1/8 to 1/2 inches) wide. The spikelets of the plant are distinctive, with a cluster of flat, oval seeds surrounded by four hanging, leaf-like bracts positioned 90 degrees from each other. They are 5 to 30 mm (about 3/8 to 1 1/8 inches) long and linear to narrowly elliptic with pointed tips and 8 to 35 florets. The color varies from straw-colored to gold-brown. They can produce up to 2420 seeds per plant. The plant foliage is very tough and fibrous and is often mistaken for a grass. The roots are an extensive and complex system of fine, fibrous roots and scaly rhizomes with small, hard, spherical tubers and basal bulbs attached. The tubers are 0.3 – 1.9 cm (1/8 to 1/2 inches) in diameter and the colors vary between yellow, brown, and black. One plant can produce several hundred to several thousand tubers during a single growing season. With cool temperatures, the foliage, roots, rhizomes, and basal bulbs die, but the tubers survive and resprout the following spring when soil temperatures remain above 6 °C (42.8 °F). They can resprout up to several years later. When the tubers germinate, many rhizomes are initiated and end in a basal bulb near the soil surface. These basal bulbs initiate the stems and leaves above ground, and fibrous roots underground. C. esculentus is wind pollinated and requires cross pollination as it is self–incompatible.


Prefers a moist sandy loam. Plants are hardy to about -15°c. The chufa, or tiger nut, is often cultivated for its edible tuber in warm temperate and tropical zones, there is a cultivated variety, var. sativus, that produces larger tubers. We have had lots of problems with growing this cultivated form. Once the tubers come into growth then they normally grow vigorously, but the difficulty is getting them to come into growth. We harvest the tubers in the autumn and store them in moist sand, replanting them in the spring. However, they rarely come into new growth until mid to late summer which gives them too short a growing season to produce much of a crop. We need to find a satisfactory way of storing the tubers and exciting them back into growth. In warmer climates this plant is a serious weed of cultivation. It is much hardier than was once imagined and is becoming a weed in N. America where it is found as far north as Alaska. The tubers are often formed a metre or more away from the plant, especially if it is growing in a heavy clay soil. The tubers are extremely attractive to mice and require protection from them in the winter.

Seed – surface sow in the spring and keep the compost moist. The seed usually germinates in 2 – 6 weeks at 18°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow on for their first winter in a greenhouse and plant them out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Division in spring or autumn. This is more a matter of harvesting the tubers and replanting them. If this is done in the autumn, then it is best to store the tubers in a cool frost-free place overwinter and plant them out in the spring.
Edible Uses: Coffee; Oil; Oil.

Tuber – raw, cooked or dried and ground into a powder. They are also used in confectionery. A delicious nut-like flavour but rather chewy and with a tough skin. They taste best when dried. They can be cooked in barley water to give them a sweet flavour and then be used as a dessert nut. A refreshing beverage is made by mixing the ground tubers with water, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla and ice. The ground up tuber can also be made into a plant milk with water, wheat and sugar. An edible oil is obtained from the tuber. It is considered to be a superior oil that compares favourably with olive oil. The roasted tubers are a coffee substitute. The base of the plant can be used in salads. (This probably means the base of the leaf stems.)

Medicinal Uses:

Aphrodisiac; Carminative; Digestive; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Stimulant; Tonic.

Tiger nuts are regarded as a digestive tonic, having a heating and drying effect on the digestive system and alleviating flatulence. They also promote urine production and menstruation. The tubers are said to be aphrodisiac, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulant and tonic. In Ayurvedic medicine they are used in the treatment of flatulence, indigestion, colic, diarrhoea, dysentery, debility and excessive thirst.

As a source of oils, the tubers were used in pharmacy under the Latin name bulbuli thrasi beginning no later than the end of 18th century. In ayurvedic medicine tiger nuts are used in the treatment of flatulence, diarrhoea, dysentery, debility and indigestion. Tiger nut oil can be used in the cosmetic industry. As it is antidioxide (because of its high content in vitamin E) it helps slow down the ageing of the body cells. It favours the elasticity of the skin and reduces skin wrinkles.

Other Uses:
Oil; Oil; Weaving:

The tubers contain up to 30% of a non-drying oil, it is used in cooking and in making soap. It does not solidify at 0°c and stores well without going rancid. The leaves can be used for weaving hats and matting etc.

Use as fishing bait:
The boiled nuts are used in the UK as a bait for carp. The nuts have to be prepared in a prescribed manner to prevent harm to the fish. The nuts are soaked in water for 24 hours and then boiled for 20 minutes or longer until fully expanded. Some anglers then leave the boiled nuts to ferment for 24–48 hours, which can enhance their effectiveness. If the nuts are not properly prepared, however, they can be extremely toxic to the carp. This was originally thought to have been the cause of death of Benson, a very large and very famous carp. The 54-lb. fish was found floating dead in a fishing lake, with a bag of unprepared tiger nuts lying nearby, empty, on the shore. An examination of the fish by a taxidermist concluded tiger nut poisoning was not, in the end, the cause of death.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

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