This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Friday, February 7, 2014


  Chufa ( Cyperus esculentus), also known as Nutgrass is not a grass at all but is a member of the Sedge family. I'll never forget the rhyme that helps me remember and helps me teach others how to differentiate between  three narrow leaved lookalikes; "Rushes have ridges, Sedges have edges and Grasses are all round". The "edges" in this rhyme refer to the triangular shaped stem of Sedges.
  I learned about Nutgrass or Chufa many years ago but never had much luck in the wild finding the"nuts". Than I came across the seeds in an Ethnobotanical seed catalog and decided to put them in the garden to see what would happen. Well, what happened is, they took over  a large section of my garden! I have since learned that they are considered a noxious "weed" in many parts of the country as they are very aggressive multipliers. I suggest if you decide to plant them you put them in a raised bed to tame their aggressiveness.
  Even though they have gone crazy in my garden, I don't regret planting them. They are one of my favorite tasting wild edibles. The Tubers are the "nut" part that you eat. Even though they are relatively small and not that easy to harvest, they are so good, it is worth it. They are sweet, succulent and taste like Almonds to me, maybe that's why another common name is Earth Almond.
  As with most root crops, it is best to harvest the Tubers after the plant dies back for the winter and you can continue to harvest them till they start growing again in the spring. Harvesting is a bit tedious so I will go through the steps I have come up with through trial and error. 

Chufa mixed with Rocks and Debris on screen
 First, I have a screen with 1/4" holes that I originally made for collecting Fossil Sharks Teeth but has become my go to screen for lots of other Pursuits. The "nuts" I go for are not that deep so I skim the surface to about 3"down with a shovel. I shovel it into the screen and shake it till most of the finer soil and debris has fallen through, than break up the clumps with my hands and shake some more. Now what I have is Chufa and lots of rocks and debris left behind.

Debris Floating on Top
  The next step is to wash the rest of the dirt from the screen with a hose. I blast it the best I can and than take the contents of the screen and put them in a jar or a bucket and run water into it. Everything that floats can be skimmed off and the water can run till it is relatively clear.
Clear Water with Chufa and Rocks
  The trickiest part of this whole process is separating the Chufa from everything else left in the jar. Originally I would just pick them out one by one, but this became rather tedious when I had a quantity to do. I had to think of another way. I decided to try some Physics. I recently did a Science program on Density for the Seniors I work with using some demo experiments I used to use when I taught kids as an Environmental Educator. 
  I noticed that the Chufa were more dense than water but not as dense as he rocks and sand in the jar. So to get the Chufa to float but not the rocks I needed to increase the Density of the water just enough to get the Chufa to float and leave the Rocks behind. The easiest and cheapest way to do this was to add salt to the water. I began adding salt to the water and as I added more salt the Chufa began to float.
Chufa Nuts Floating On Surface of Water
 All that was left to do now was to strain the Chufa out of the water and to rinse all the salt off.
Cleaned Chufa Nuts Ready to Eat
 The tubers are great just as they are and make a Delicious snack. They can also be dried and stored for future use. One of by favorite ways to use them is to make a "nut" milk out of them. Just place in a blender with water and blend till you have a thick milky liquid. Strain and drink, no sweetener needed, they are sweet on their own. As a matter of fact, the Spanish have a drink they call "Horchata de Chufa"which is basically a Chufa nut milk with sugar and cinnamon in it. Save the ground up Chufa as an addition to pancakes or muffins. The Chufa can also be dried and ground into nutritious flour.
  Chufa is also famous as a food for Wild Turkeys and Ducks. It is often planted by hunting clubs to attract Wild Turkeys to an area.