On Friday last week I gave you a recipe for ‘milk’ made from chufas, and promised to tell you a little more about these interesting ‘nuts’ today. Firstly, it needs to be noted that although chufas go by many other names - earth almonds, earth nuts, rush nuts, pig nuts, zulu nuts, tiger nuts, for example – they are not nuts at all, but the tubers of a member of the sedge family.
Cyperus esculentus is native to large areas of the northern hemisphere, and has become naturalized, or established as a crop, in many other warm regions of the world. It is viewed variously as a wild food, a weed, as animal fodder, or as a human food depending on local knowledge and culture.
The best known use for the chufa is probably the milky beverage much loved in Spain, called horchata de chufa, but in other parts of Europe it has been used to make a substitute for coffee.
The book which I used as a resource on Friday (Guide for Nut Cookery: together with a brief history of nuts and their food value; 1899) has this to say on the plant:
The leaves resemble coarse marsh grass. The plant produces small, oblong tubers in abundance, which are rich in fats and very sweet, tasting like the almond, but having a better flavor. An excellent milk may be made from them, which can be used for shortening.
The chufa should be cultivated by every farmer. It is a sweet, tuberous nut, rich in fats, and, to my knowledge, may be successfully raised as far north as Minnesota. It is quite certain that they will grow in Canada. It would be well to experiment.”
The book includes a number of other recipes for chufas, including one for the coffee substitute:
Take some good chufas, or earth almonds, wash them well, and bake in the oven or roast in a peanut roaster until quite brown, but not burned. Grind in a coffee-mill, but not very fine, then use the same as any coffee.
And to enjoy with your morning beverage, here are a couple of other ideas, from the same source:
Rolls No. 6.
To ½ cup of cream taken from chufa milk, add ½ cup of water, and a quantity of whole-wheat flour sufficient to make a stiff dough. Make the same as Rolls No. 4*
These are delicious, and also inexpensive, as chufas may be raised in nearly all sections of this country.
* Knead until the dough becomes quite elastic, and will make a snapping sound when a piece of dough is quickly pulled off. The more stiffly the dough is kneaded and worked, the better the quality of the rolls will be.
Chufa Cream Pie Crust.
Let the chufa milk set for several hours, or overnight, after which skim off the cream.
Take ½ cup of the thin cream, 1 cup flour, a pinch of salt, and enough cold water to make a stiff dough. Work as little as possible. This makes a sweet, crisp, delicious crust.