How Are Tiger Nuts Grown
Food

How Are Tiger Nuts Grown? What Products Can Be Made From Tiger Nuts?

Tigernuts are currently one of the hottest superfoods on the scene. These wrinkly little miracles are not nuts or even related to nuts, but somehow manage to replicate the characteristics of nuts very closely in texture, flavor, and usefulness.

Tigernuts products are rising stars of the health food markets, but the tigernut’s origin and ascent to foodie fame are still unknown to some. Read on to discover more about this fantastic little tuber, including how it’s grown, what products can be made from it, and more.

How Tiger Nuts Are Grown

Cultivation Process

Tigernuts are grown from seeds–actually, tigernuts themselves are the seeds to produce more tigernut plants. Once the seeds are sown and the grass sprouts, it’s fertilized and tended until the grass has reached maturity, the tops can be burned or the whole plant can be dug or pulled up from the root. Then, the tigernuts are separated from the plant and processed.

Though tigernuts are originally from North Africa, they are now mainly cultivated in Spain and the Mediterranean region. The favorable conditions of the mild humidity and consistent, mild climate make the Mediterranean the perfect place for these tuber-like plants.

Plant Characteristics

The tigernut plant resembles a grassy shrub that produces a leafy yellow “flower” when in bloom, and the roots underneath grow in all directions. Some of the roots produce small, bulbous tubers. Those are the tigernuts! It takes approximately four months for the plants to mature from seeds to tigernut-producing adult plants.

Soil and Climate Requirements

Tigernuts are a little picky when it comes to soil type. They like loose, sandy soil. The plants thrive in warm, temperate climates and don’t tolerate cold well–hence why they grow so well in the Mediterranean and North African areas! They thrive on a consistent (but not overabundant) supply of water, so regular rain or watering is a must.

Harvesting Process

Tigernuts can be harvested by burning down the grass and using commercial equipment (similar to that of a peanut farm) to collect the roots. They can also be hand-pulled or dug up from the root using a shovel before separating the inedible roots from the edible tigernut or tuber. Harvest typically takes place in mid-November in Spain, where the plant is primarily cultivated.

Storage and Processing

Freshly harvested tigernuts are typically refrigerated until they can be processed to prolong their shelf life, usually for around 3 months with careful monitoring. They can also be frozen for an even longer period of freshness.

To increase their longevity, tigernuts are processed. Once separated from the parent plant, tigernuts are often dried or soaked and then dried. This process can preserve tigernuts for up to a year! They can also be roasted or steamed.

Products Made from Tiger Nuts

Tiger Nut Flour

Tigernut flour is made by grinding dried or roasted tigernuts up into a fine powder that resembles coconut, almond, or rice flour. It can be used in place of regular wheat flour or most alternative flours in baked goods. It can also be combined with liquid–usually oil, but sometimes plant-based milks or waters–to create a tigernut spread or paste, and it can be added as a dietary supplement into drinks and snacks.

Tiger Nut Milk

Tigernut milk is typically made by soaking tigernuts in water for several hours or overnight, before draining them and blending them with fresh water. The mixture is then strained to remove the pulp and produce a smooth, creamy, plant-based milk alternative that can be used almost anywhere other nut milks or dairy milks are used. Tigernut milk is lactose-free, vegan, gluten free and nut-free, as well as a concentrated source of the plant’s vitamins and minerals.

Tiger Nut Oil

Tigernuts can be pressed to produce an oil that can be refined for culinary use. To extract the oil, tigernuts are roughly chopped, then pressed (sometimes multiple times). From there, the oil can be heated to further refine the texture and concentration. Tigernut oil can replace olive oil in cooking or baking, and it’s often used as a nut-free alternative to coconut oil. Tigernut oil is rich in omega fatty acids and can also be used in cosmetic products like moisturizers and hair serums as a powerful antioxidant.

Snack Products

As far as snacks go, tigernuts are a top-tier, versatile ingredient in everyday treats. Tigernuts are popular in granola, chips, spreads, crackers, muesli, and salted or spiced whole tigernuts.

Tiger Nut-Based Beverages

Tigernut horchata (also known as horchata de chufa) is a popular drink in the Mediterranean and there are several variations between cultures. Some contain spices, some contain ginger. Tigernut horchata is made very similarly to tigernut milk–tigernuts are soaked, blended with water, and then strained through a mesh sieve or nut bag to produce a creamy liquid. Then, traditional horchata spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and sweeteners like maple syrup or sugar are added, producing a sweet, creamy, aromatic drink.

Gluten-Free and Allergen-Free Alternatives

Gluten is a protein that’s usually found in wheat or other cereal grains that triggers a reaction in those with Celiac disease or other kinds of gluten sensitivities. Tiger nuts are tubers that come from the sedge family, and as such, are naturally gluten free.

In fact, tigernuts and their resulting products are friendly to many allergies–because tigernuts aren’t actually nuts and contain no animal products. This means they’re also safe for those allergic to dairy and nuts as well.

Traditional and Cultural Uses

Tigernuts are used in various European, North African, and Middle Eastern dishes. There’s also evidence that it was used in medical applications in ancient Egypt.

These days, it’s still used in countries all over the world in stews, primitive cakes, and bread-style recipes. It’s prevalent in some Mediterranean dishes, including the popular tigernut-based horchata from Spain, and is also found in Middle Eastern and North African cultures as a snack when roasted and coated in fragrant spices like turmeric.

Final Thoughts on Tigernuts

Tigernuts are a useful, allergy-friendly replacement for most products made from nuts or even nuts themselves. These environmentally conscious, nut-like chufas have deep roots in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, but are quickly spreading across the rest of the globe because of their top-tier taste, allergy compatibility, and usefulness in everyday cuisine.

AboutCorinne Switzer

Corinne is an avid reader and takes a keen interest in conspiracy theories. When not busy with her day job, she likes to indulge the writer in her and pens columns on a wide range of topics that cover everything from entertainment, healthy living to healthcare and more.