What Are Tiger Nuts?
Tiger Nuts, aka earth almonds, grow beneath a perennial grass-like plant from the sedge family. Sedges are flowering plants which superficially resemble grasses.
The nuts are fibrous, juicy, some say similar to hazelnuts just a tad sweeter. They are not difficult to grow.
The grassy plant they grow beneath can also double as an ornamental in the correct landscape scenario. The grass-like leaves are 2 to 3 feet long and produce a network of gnarly fibrous roots.
The tiger nuts are tubers that grow within this root ball, they are tubers the same as peanuts are.
A wild version of this plant is known as nutsedge and is considered an invasive weed in some places. Further north yet another cousin is known as Chufa, although some still call it nutsedge.
How to Grow Tiger Nuts
Plant Tiger Nuts in the late spring for a fall harvest. The nuts can be eaten fresh or dried for long term storage. One plant is capable of producing over 2000 Tiger Nuts in its lifetime, under the best conditions.
An average plant under normal conditions will produce 50 to 70 tubers each season. In addition to the subterranean nuts, the seeds are also edible.
Before planting the nuts, it’s a good idea to rehydrate them by soaking them in lukewarm / room temperature water for 10 to 12 hours. Plant them slightly less than 2 inches deep in loose well-drained soil.
Tiger nuts do best with loose sandy well-draining soil, they will not produce very well in soggy or compacted soils, if at all.
If growing strictly for the edible crop you’ll want to space them roughly 2 inches apart, if growing for aesthetic value in addition to an edible harvest you’ll want to keep them a tad tighter for a clustered effect.
Planting outdoors should be in early spring, April to early May. They also adapt well to pots and will produce as a containerized plant in which case they can be transported in and out depending on weather and seasonal factors.
Containers used to plant tiger nuts should be at the very least 8 inches deep preferably deeper. The nuts grow 8 to 14 inches deep in the soil.
You can probably get away without fertilizing your nuts, but why woulld you when you can get a much healthier plant and heftier harvest by feeding them, just a tad.
Expensive fertilizers are not necessary, a simple side dressing in late spring with a general all-purpose fertilizer or fish emulsion will suffice, a rich layer of compost at planting time wouldn’t hurt either.
They aren’t the least bit drought-tolerant, no, no, no. They need a persistent dosage of moisture, keep them well watered but not overly saturated. Nutsedge, grown wild survives flooding, the plant that is, the nuts however do not.
Root rot will devastate the root ball and its tubers, the tiger nuts you are striving to produce. A thin layer of organic mulch will help retain moisture.
Harvesting Tiger Nuts
Harvest your tiger nuts once the above-ground plant gears up for its dormancy by yellowing and drying. Assuming your soil is loose and sandy as it should be, harvesting is a snap.
Harvest in the same fashion you would potatoes or peanuts if you’ve ever grown them. Dig up the plant taking care not to damage the root system extensively if you plan on replanting it. From the rootball pluck the nuts.
If you used a planter, yippie for you! Soil from the planters is easily screened to seek out and harvest all the tuber/nuts.
As previously stated this plant has a tendency to become invasive as it easily reseeds itself, harvesting the seeds is advisable. The seeds are edible and tasty, and they can be used for replanting at desired locations.
Although they are considered perennial, they generally only last 3 years at best in northern latitudes with cold winters. Further south can anticipate 4 to 5 seasons per plant, but rest assured they will reseed themselves with or without help from you.
Nutritional and Culinary Value of Tiger Nuts
Tiger Nuts can be eaten raw, dried, baked or roasted, as a juice and melded into multiple recipes.
Tiger nuts are considered a superfood by some nutritionists and herbalists as they are rich in natural sugars, protein starch, and fats.
Phosphorus, potassium vitamins C and E are also in their dietary venue.