To the unaware, the new Tiger Nuts superfood sounds so exotic. Surely, it’s another one of those rare plants found in the wilds of some distant, perhaps tropical, country. Not only can you grow your own in about any climate, it’s a weed. A herbicide-resistant superweed whose eradication drives lawn owners and farmers crazy. This resilience, however, is of huge interest as a sustainable food source and health beneficial properties.
While you can forage for tiger nuts if you know what to look for, it’s a wiser use of time to grow your own at home. However, if you can identify it without question, foraging for seed makes sense. But you can also buy Cyperus esculenta Lativum (a.k.a. Yellow Nutsedge) seed in quantities large and small. It’s a popular food plot plant for game hunters, especially those who hunt turkeys. And sometimes grown for the sole purpose of fattening hogs before turning them into bacon. Not surprising, since they taste similar to hazelnuts.
The native tribes made good use of the tiger nut plant. The nuts and seeds are both edible, and the grass-like leaves make great livestock feed. It’s a crop with multiple harvest uses. It isn’t difficult to grow your own tiger nuts, the plant isn’t picky about growing conditions. However, to keep it in check in an urban or suburban situation, I highly recommend growing it in planters to control the spread. Large containers and fabric pots will also make harvesting your ground nuts a lot easier. But you want a deep one as the nuts you’re after form 8-14 inches deep in the soil. Instead of digging to China for harvest, you’ll only have to dump the pot to find them all 🙂
Since tiger nuts grow in most soils and moisture conditions, this is an easy keeper crop. Don’t get the idea that you will never have to water or fertilize your plants though. You’re raising nuts, not harboring weeds. You should yield a bumper crop if you grow your own in full sun, average garden fertility, a loose soil rich in compost, and regular watering.
Be sure your planting mix and pot drains well. Root rot will destroy ground nuts too! In ground soil, the plant survives periodic flooding – as a weed, not a crop. Sow your seed in April-May by broadcasting followed by scratching it into about 1/2-inch deep. Keeping your soil from drying out will speed germination, but not too wet. (Adding a thin layer of mulch on top helps retain good seed moisture – like grass seed.) A boost of liquid fish and compost tea once a month after germination is a good idea. You want it to grow… like a weed.
You may only have to buy tiger nuts seed once. Once you start to grow your own, you can harvest the seed when ripe. A wise practice to stop it from seeding around the yard too. You can also eat the seed, which should contain a lot of the health benefits found in the nuts. They are ripe when they’re totally dry and harvest season is in fall after the plants turn brown. In southern climates, they can sow and harvest most of the year.
While ornamental sedges are perennial, yellow nutsedge tubers will only overwinter 1-3 years in climates with below freezing temperatures. It’s best to treat it as an annual. Do not compost the roots and tubers after harvest. It’s best to burn them after drying them to control the plant’s spread. Unless you have some poultry or livestock to feed them to.
Once your harvest is ready, wash off the dirt, remove attached roots, and eat or use them fresh. You can also dry them. Some brands at the store are peeled, and some foragers suggest peeling the nuts too. But if you taste test some peeled vs. unpeeled packaged brands you’ll likely find that while the peeled is chewier, the unpeeled has better flavor
Once dried, you can keep them for snacking until the next year’s harvest. But you can also make flour and nut milk with them, both of which have many uses.
Now you know how easy it is to grow your own tiger nuts. Since people have eaten these ground nuts for thousands of years, you know it’s not necessary to commercially process them to enjoy the same results. And you have a good idea how to contain what some view as an obnoxious weed. Growing them by the acre, however, is another thing altogether. Then you’ll need serious digging efforts, perhaps a machine, to reap what you’ve sown.