Growing chufa

Thinking more about environmental impacts of eating meat has made me more curious about growing my own dense forms of protein. I really enjoy growing things. But have a pretty hands off approach, meaning if something requires more calories to care for than I’ll likely get from eating it, I’m apt to find a lazier method. 

Well, enter chufa, or yellow nut sedge (Cyperus esculentus var sativus)–a cultivated European “nut” that grows under a clump of grass. Even though I could grow chestnuts, walnuts, hickories and hazelnuts in my New England climate, obviously those all take some time. (Which is why I planted hazelnuts last year and will be planted more soon…) 

On the other hand, chufa grows nuts in a season. There are a few varieties of this plant, but most notably: a wild form (Cyperus esculentus proper) which drives Californians and Floridians (and apparently much of the world) crazy by taking over lawns, doesn’t taste so good, and produces small nuts. This variety is very hardy but also very problematic. Then there’s a cultivated variety: Cyperus esculentus cat sativus, which is sterile, not so hardy, and thus not very weedy. You have to replant nuts every year to get repeating crops. But if it’s really as low maintenance as I’m hoping, I won’t mind terribly. 

These guys are also called tigernuts. You can buy tigernut flour, and can otherwise use the nuts like ugly almonds. They’re also hailed as being very nutritious, like, well, super almonds. They’re often called ground almonds for that matter.  A relative plant, Cyperus rotundus, is used in Chinese medicine as a tonic and is considered neutral in heat. If esculentus is similarly neutral, this would be very good also, since most vegetarian sources of protein are cold in nature–and I don’t need more cold. 

What I’ve heard is that this is an easy thing to grow except for harvesting and processing–which is a pain. My thought is to grow it in bins with other plants with harvestable roots, like sunchokes or groundnut. This would take some thoughtful design, but the thought is that then I can dump the bins out into a wheelbarrow and only have to dig through it once. We’ll see how this goes this year. There are some reports that they inhibit the growth of other plants. We shall see.  Also, ___ brought up growing chufa with fenugreek. This seems like a neat idea since the fenugreek sprouts quite fast and can be cut back for greens as the chufa is establishing. I’m going to experiment with this too. 

More later. 


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