As a gardening journalist, I’m used to receiving all sorts of unexpected things to trial but one that stood out last year among the composts and carrots was tiger nuts.
I must confess that until the package arrived from Dobies I had never heard of them and was unsure what to expect.
What arrived were plants that looked not unlike a long grass. Not surprising given that Cyperus esculentus is a member of the sedge family.
How I grew them
I planted them up into a large pot filled with ordinary multi-purpose peat-free compost and stood them by the side of the greenhouse.
Then, I must confess, I largely forgot about them. They got watered and fed along with plants both inside and outside the greenhouse but other than that were left to get on with it.
And they did. They grew away quite happily until the leaves started dying away in late autumn – quite late last year due to the mild weather.
Taking them into the potting shed to ‘harvest’ the crop, I decided that the soil was too wet to part it easily from the nuts, which are really just a knobbly root at the end of the grass.
So, I pulled them out of the pot and left the soil to dry out a little before trying again. Even so, they were not easy to separate from the foliage and getting the soil off was even trickier. I resorted to a vegetable scrubbing brush and a lot of water before the nuts seemed clean enough to eat.
The taste test
What of the taste? Well, they are described as being a little like sweet coconut and certainly the texture reminded me of it – unfortunate as coconut is something I can’t bear.
The rest of the family varied in their opinions from “weird” to “they’re ok”. Not an absolute winner with us then.
However, doing a little research, I discovered that tiger nuts are much prized by many and are nothing new; during the war, they were used as a substitute for sweets.
What’s in tiger nuts?
They are packed with fibre – that was obvious – but also vitamins and minerals. They are also low in calories and contain a type of starch that is digested slowly, making you feel fuller for longer, although given their size you’d have to eat a lot.
Tiger nuts are also gluten-free and, despite their name, are not nuts so perfect as a nut substitute for those with allergies.
Suggested uses include smoothies, chopped into various dishes, or ground into flour, and they can also be dried; you would need to soak them overnight before use. There are even suggestions of peeling them though that would be incredibly difficult.
The plug plants were sent to me as part of the Rob Smith Heritage range from Dobies and this year, there are seeds available too.
If you’re looking for something easy and a little different, perhaps a project for children, they are worth a try – providing, unlike me, you like coconut.
• My tiger nuts plug plants were sent free by Dobies in return for an honest review.
• Read about some more of my 2017 garden trials here.