Tiger nuts / Chufa / Earth Almonds11 February 2022
Tiger nuts were a new crop for me in 2021! I had ordered some for myself and a friend. They arrived in May and my own plants went into an old bathtub.
I tucked the extra plants into a couple of pots, but with lockdown issues etc. I never got around to passing them on. Also I never got around to replanting them. As it turned out – that was a lucky mistake!
My first issue was to find my own little plants getting flattened. I think the local cats had adopted this bath as a sunbathing spot! I rigged up a support and a net to give the little plants a chance to establish. By July the plants in the pot looked great,
while those in the bath looked a bit sparse.
Tiger nuts are the edible tuber of a grass – now being hailed as a superfood! However, they are quite small! Having waited for the grass to die back and the first frosts to arrive (January in South Wales), I tried to use a small hand fork to harvest the tubers in the bath but came up empty. The only option was to plunge my hands in and try to feel for the tubers. But there was just too much soil to plough through. By raking through the compost with my fingers, I managed to retrieve 10 nuts. I think that sieving the compost through a riddle might be an option in future.
However, harvesting from the pot was a different story! The compost was webbed together with roots, so I needed to pull out chunks of compost and feel for the tubers, which were easily pulled out of the mat. This at least resulted in a crop which couldn’t be counted on my fingers! But not the most appetising crop I’ve seen…
I tried shaking the compost away from the nuts in a colander, and then resorted to soaking the tubers and hand wiping each individual one. I did wonder if the compost weighed more than the actual harvest… but it was only about a third! I also wondered if I was insane spending so much time on something that looked so unappetising. I tentatively nibbled one – and it was lovely! Sweet and crunchy!
Space efficiency / Value for money
Tiger nuts are also high in fibre, magnesium and iron.
The tiger nuts were in the ground for 281 days waiting for frost, but some sources say this isn’t necessary as long as the grass has died back – I’ll try some earlier next year.
I’m pretty sure that the majority of the bath crop is still in the bath (hence the poor yields). My plan for next year is to wait for those tubers to start growing and transplant them into small pots. I’m so glad that I didn’t let these little critters into uncontained ground! I don’t think I’d ever get them out of the space, and it would be near impossible to harvest them. I can see how this plant can become invasive… But this is a pretty amazing plant for urban farmers who don’t have much space! Being a grass, the plants can cope with a reasonable amount of shade too!