Chufa key facts
Botanical name – Cyperus esculentus
Common name – chufa
Family – Cyperaceae
Type – perennial
Height – 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40cm)
Planting distance – 16 inches (40cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – light, lots of humus, soft
Planting – beginning of spring
Harvest – beginning of fall
Though it looks like a simple grass, chufa is a perennial plant that belongs to the same family as that of papyrus. And its tubers are edible! These small roots taste somewhat like almonds, and their texture is a bit like that of coconut. Definitely original and very easy to grow, this vegetable deserves a space in your vegetable patch.
Even though growing it is easy, it does need a little care if you want a sizeable harvest. First of all, find a spot in full sun, because it loves heat. Before planting, you’ll need to get the soil ready.
Preparing the soil
Chufa loves light, soft soil that’s humus-rich. To bring these conditions together, follow these steps in the fall of the year before planting:
- Spread a heap of organic amendments such as soil mix, compost, or well-decomposed manure. If you feel your soil is on the heavy side, do go ahead and add sand.
- Work the soil quite deep, using a spading fork or a grelinette. It’s better to use these than to simply turn the soil over with a spade: do so destroys soil structure and kills underground animals.
- Level the soil, and let winter do all the legwork of breaking up clumps.
- In spring, just before planting, you can rework the planting bed a bit, with a cultivator for instance.
- In mild-weather regions (no freezing in winter), go ahead and plant the tubers in the ground directly in April.
In other regions, it’s best to start growing chufa at the same date, but indoors.
- To do so, just place each tuber in a nursery pot filled with a blend of soil mix and sand.
- Place the pots in a greenhouse or on a windowsill indoors.
- When the plants have sprouted and seem vigorous, and that it won’t freeze anymore (usually around end of May), go ahead and transplant them to the ground.
To give them space to grow, space them well, about 16 inches to all sides (40 cm).
Growing and care
Chufa doesn’t require any specific care after planting. Indeed, it can cope with extended drought. Nonetheless, to increase productivity, you can water each plant on a regular basis, but only use a little bit of water.
Diseases and pests on chufa:
Though diseases seem to have no impact on its growth, it isn’t the case for rodents. These might create problems for you at the end of the season, when they attack grown tubers.
Harvest and keeping
- For that, get your spading fork ready and pull out the clumps.
- Sift out the soil and pick out each small tuber.
- After that, dry them in the sun for a few days, and store them in small burlap pouches for them to keep in the dark until the following spring.
If ever you have any left over at the end of winter, use the tubers to start a new crop!
Cooking with chufa
How do you eat chufa? Chufa roots can be prepared in many ways:
- cleaned and eaten raw as a finger food;
- roasted and salted for a tasty appetizer;
- crushed and milled to replace flour or powdered almonds;
- and even as a drink: in Spain, it’s the main ingredient for horchata de chufa.