By IFY MGBEMENA
The Tiger Nut plant has grass-like leaves which are 35-60cm long. Beneath the solitary stem grows a network of fibrous roots. From these roots are attached peanut-sized tubers or Tiger Nuts. Tiger Nuts are fibrous, nutty, somewhat juicy and slightly sweet.
Tiger Nuts are planted in late spring, and harvested in the late fall. The dried tubers of the plant are available year-round.
Tiger Nuts grow from Cyperus esculentus, an herbaceous evergreen from the sedge family. A relative of papyrus C. esculentus is considered a weed in some parts of the world but an important food crop in many others. One plant can produce up to 2500 tubers or Tiger Nuts each.
Tiger Nuts can be consumed raw, roasted, dried, baked, juiced as a drink, or processed into oil. Both the Spanish and Nigerians use Tiger Nuts to make a sweet milky drink called horchata de chufa in Spain and kunnu aya in Nigeria. Flour is made from roasted, ground Tiger Nuts. Oil made from the fatty tubers has a rich, nutty taste and is compared favorably to olive oil, usable for both salads and frying. Industrial uses for Tiger Nuts include ingredients in soaps and as animal feed.
Tiger Nuts are one of the oldest cultivated crops. 9,000-year-old prehistoric tools with traces of C. esculentus have been recovered suggesting this to be true. It is believed that they were an important energy source for prehistoric people. C. esculentus use has been recorded all over the world throughout history. It was brought to Spain by North African Arabs. It has been cultivated throughout the United States, Africa, the Middle East, South and Central America, Europe, and Asia. C. esculentus is pollinated by wind, is widespread in warmer climates, and grows in marshy or well irrigated areas. Once established, Cyperus esculentus is difficult to remove, as it has a stratified and layered root system.
Here are some more amazing facts about tigernut.
• Tiger nut is a misnomer because tiger nut has nothing to do with the tiger and it is not a nut. Rather, tiger nut is a tuber, a mini tuber.
• Fresh tiger nut is crunchy, sweet and juicy. Quite similar to coconut.
• The yellow variety produces more milk and has more protein. Also, it has less fat and fewer antinutrients.
• It contains vitamins B, C and E, insoluble fibre, iron, potassium, proteins, natural sugars, zinc, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus etc.
• It contains enzymes that aid digestion such as catalase, lipase and amylase, and are often recommended to those who suffer from constipation, indigestion, flatulence and diarrhoea.
• The presence of magnesium in tiger nuts help in the fight against tooth decay and osteoporosis, prevention of menstrual problems and maintenance of a stable body pH.
• Due to the high amount of potassium in tiger nuts, it helps control activities of the heart and blood pressure. It is essential for proper functioning of human cells and vital organs also for electrolyte balance in the body.
• Tiger nut is ideal for weight watchers since it is very high in fibre, it keeps you feeling fuller for longer, resulting in a lower calorie intake.
• This insoluble fibre is also good and recommended for diabetics for the regulation of blood glucose.
• Due to the high fibre content, tiger nuts help prevent constipation. Just eat a handful or 2 at night with some water.
• It is one of the highest whole food sources of a fibre called resistant starch prebiotic. Resistant starch feeds the good bacteria in the digestive tract. It might eventually be found to be a powerful component in preventing diabetes and obesity.
• It has a higher protein, lipid and carbohydrate content than other tubers. The carbohydrate is mainly starch and fibre.
• Due to its high iron content, it is important to include it in a vegan diet which is normally low on iron.
• Tigernut is an aphrodisiac, very good for the libido in both male and female. It is rich in arginine which is also good for sexual health, arterial and heart health.
• Arginine also helps in the liberation of much-needed insulin in diabetics thereby controlling the blood sugar.Fresh Tiger nuts for 30 amazing facts about tiger nut
• Tiger nut contains very healthy fat.
• Due to its high vitamin E content, it is used as a cosmetic product, to help slow down the ageing of skin cells.
• It is high in antioxidants, antibacterial and antispasmodic.
• Tiger nuts like most plants contain anti-nutrients and phytochemicals which can be reduced by soaking and toasting.
• Antinutrients in tiger nuts are very low compared to other fruits, nuts, tubers, and vegetables, even peanuts. You will have to eat a huge amount of tubers for these anti-nutrients to have any significant effect. Do not worry about them once you eat a nutrient-rich diet, also see this and this.
• Phytochemicals in tiger nuts are most beneficial to humans, they have antimicrobial, analgesic, antispasmodic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
• It is ideal for those with nut allergies because it is not a nut.
• Allergies are rare with tiger nuts.
• Tiger nut fits right into the Paleo diet, keto diet and diabetic diet.
• It is good for colitis and celiac patients.
• Due to their natural sweetness, cravings for candy or other sweets can be taken care of using wholesome tiger nuts.
• It is a perfect snack substitute for popcorn and potato chips.
• Dry tiger nuts can be eaten as it is but it will be very chewy. Soak in water for 12-24 hours to rehydrate and crisp up.
• Tiger nut was found to increase the serum level of oestrogen in rats. If you have an oestrogen dominant/sensitive issue, e.g. endometriosis, avoid tiger nuts.
• It is boiled or ground and used as fishing bait.