Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) is a perennial grass-like plant that grows up to three feet tall. Also known as chufa sedge, earth almond, and nut grass, the simple and unassuming foliage of C. esculentus is often mistaken for a weed. Beneath the soil, however, are a vast network of rhizomes, tubers, and basal bulbs; a single yellow nutsedge plant can produce anywhere from hundreds to thousands of tubers per season.
Yellow nutsedge is cultivated for these edible tubers – called “tiger nuts” because of their striped appearance. Despite its name, tiger nuts are not nuts but fleshy tubers that are dried for up to three months after harvest. The drying process makes them quite hard but they may be eaten as is or soaked in water to soften them and enhance their nutty and sweet flavor.
If you haven’t heard of tiger nuts before, read on to learn all about the benefits of this non-nut:
1. Tiger Nuts Are A Healthful Snack
Nutrition wise, tiger nuts offer a little bit of everything. Per ounce, tiger nuts provide 10 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, and 215 mg of potassium. At only 120 calories per serving, tiger nuts also contain 10% iron, 7% magnesium, 7% zinc, 3% calcium, 5% vitamin B6, 3% vitamin E, and 3% vitamin C.
2. Tiger Nuts Are An Excellent Source Of Prebiotic Fiber
Not to be confused with probiotics, which are foods that introduce live microorganisms to the digestive system to benefit overall health, prebiotics are defined as non-digestible fiber that “feed” these good bacteria and stimulate their activity.
Like probiotics, prebiotic fiber confers myriad benefits to the host. In addition to enhancing gut micro flora, it protects against cardiovascular diseases, lowers “bad” cholesterol without affecting “good” cholesterol levels, and has been shown to prevent diabetes. It also promotes regular bowel movements, keeps us feeling fuller for longer, and can help us lose weight.
3. Tiger Nuts Are Rich In Fatty Acids & Antioxidants
Although tiger nuts are not part of the nut family, they share characteristics of both tubers and nuts. Like potatoes, yams, and other tubers, tiger nuts are plentiful in carbohydrates like fiber. And like nuts, tiger nuts provide a good source of lipids and protein.
Composed of around 25% oil, tiger nuts also provide a range of fatty acids. Nearly 80% of its oil content is monounsaturated fatty acids, a healthy kind of fat that is high in vitamin E with benefits for the immune system and cardiovascular health.
With a similar fat profile as olive oil and avocado oil, tiger nuts are enriched with palmitic, stearic, oleic, and linoleic acids. In in vitro and in vivo experiments on tiger nut oil, researchers found it had good antioxidant activity and free radical scavenging capacity.
4. Tiger Nuts Possess Strong Antibacterial Properties
The presence of flavonoids, tannins, phenolics, and alkaloids in tiger nuts has shown strong antimicrobial activity against several human pathogens.
The 2009 in vitro study found tiger nut extracts were effective against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella sp. as well as Klebsiella pneumoniae which can cause respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, and Proteus vulgaris, a bacterium that commonly causes urinary tract infections and obstructions.
What these pathogens share in common is a growing resistance to traditional antibiotics. But by eating foods that boost the immune system, we can lessen our reliance on antibiotic therapies – which in turn, could help limit the rise of drug-resistant microbes.
5. Tiger Nuts Are A Great Option For People With Food Allergies
Because tiger nuts provide the nutritional qualities of nuts without being “true” nuts, they can be safely consumed by those with tree nut and peanut allergies.
In places like Spain and Mexico, the most popular way to consume tiger nuts is by making horchata de chufa or sweetened tiger nut milk. On its own or mixed with smoothies or coffee, tiger nut milk offers an option for people with dairy allergies and lactose intolerance.
For people with wheat allergies, celiac disease, or gluten intolerance, tiger nuts can also be ground up into a gluten-free flour that can be used to make pastries, muesli, and other baked goods.
Tiger nuts are also a welcome addition to vegan, keto, and paleo diets.
Where To Purchase Tiger Nuts
For a quick and easy snack, organic raw tiger nuts can be purchased from this page on Amazon. You can munch on them straight out of the bag or soak them in water for 24 hours at room temperature to soften them.
Although you can make it yourself, tiger nut flour may also be purchased pre-made to save time.
For a more abundant supply of tiger nuts, Cyperus esculentus seeds can be purchased and planted in your garden. The yellow nutsedge plant is such a vigorous grower that it can be difficult to eradicate once established; to keep it from spreading and taking over your vegetable beds, try growing it in containers or keeping it indoors. Here are some tips on how to grow yellow nutsedge.
How To Use Tiger Nuts
Tiger nuts are an incredibly versatile food. Here are just a few of the ways you can incorporate them into your diet:
Horchata de Chufa – The traditional Spanish “milk”, horchata de chufa is made by soaking raw tiger nuts in water for at least 12 hours and blending them with an immersion blender. Strain out the pulp and set aside. Stir in some maple syrup to sweeten and consume immediately.
Tiger Nut Flour – Tiger nut pulp is a by-product of the horchata making process, which can then be used to make tiger nut flour. Washed and strained to remove all traces of milk, it can be used right away as is or dehydrated for later use. Use a blender to create a fine powdery texture.
Tiger Nut Butter – A yummy substitute for peanut butter, tiger nut butter is made by simply blending up pre-soaked tiger nuts and adding coconut oil, salt, vanilla extract, and a sweetener like stevia.
Tiger Nut Pudding – Once you’ve made tiger nut milk, you are only a few steps away from making tiger nut pudding.
Tiger Nut Coconut Ice Cream – Made with tiger nut flour and full-fat coconut milk, this healthier version of ice cream is naturally sweetened with maple syrup and stevia.
Mint Chocolate Tiger Nut Banana Shake – A vegan shake that’s also nut and dairy free, this decadent recipe calls for tiger nut milk, coconut oil, fresh mint, cacao powder, coconut sugar, and bananas.
Tiger Nut Bread – A basic gluten-free bread recipe, this tiger nut loaf is made with tiger nut flour, ground flax, eggs, coconut oil, stevia, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and baking soda.
Tiger Nut Pancakes – Kick off your morning with a high fiber breakfast! These fluffy pancakes are made with tiger nut flour, tapioca flour, and unsweetened almond milk.
Tiger Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies – A somewhat healthier version, these cookies are made with tiger nut flour, ghee, olive oil, and maple syrup in lieu of the usual wheat flour, butter, and refined sugar.
Tiger Nut Salad – For something lighter, try a tiger nut salad – a bed of organic spring greens, red onion, blueberries, crumbled blue cheese, and pre-soaked tiger nuts, topped with a dressing made from honey, apple cider vinegar, mushroom powder, and Brazilian nut oil.
Tiger Nut Trail Mix – A melange of raisins, cranberries, sesame seeds, and raw tiger nuts, this easy trail mix is drizzled with tiger nut oil and seasoned with sea salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper.