Cyperus esculentus (Chufa Sedge, Yellow Nutsedge, Tigernut Sedge, Earthalmond) is a species of sedge native to warm temperate to subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is an annual or perennial plant, growing to 90 cm tall, with solitary stems growing from a tuber. The stems are triangular in section, and bear slender leaves 3-10 mm wide. The flowers of the plant are distinctive, with a cluster of flat oval seeds surrounded by four hanging leaf-like bracts positioned 90 degrees from each other. The plant foliage is very tough and fibrous, and is often mistaken for a grass.
Use as food
The tubers are edible, with a slightly sweet, nutty flavour, compared to the more bitter tasting tuber of the related Cyperus rotundus (Purple Nutsedge). They are quite hard and are generally soaked in water before they can be eaten. They have various uses; in particular, they are used in Spain to make horchata. They are sometimes known by their Spanish name, "chufa".
Tigernuts have excellent nutritional qualities with a fat composition similar to olives and a rich mineral content, especially phosphorus and potassium. Tigernuts are also gluten- and cholesterol-free, and have a very low sodium content. The oil of the tuber was found to contain 18% saturated (palmitic acid and stearic acid) and 82% unsaturated (oleic acid and linoleic acid) fatty acids.
Even though too low in proteins and in fats, and too high in carbohydrates, to be considered equal to milk, Horchata de Chufas can be useful in somehow replacing milk in the diet of people intolerant to lactose.