Topic: TigerNuts History and recipes
Tiger nuts are the edible tubers (also sometimes called fruits or grains), found at the end of the root system of Cyperus grass (Cyperus esculentus L.). A member of the sedge family, along with its better-known cousin, papyrus, Cyperus Grass grows in marshy areas such as the Delta region ( in ancient times) or well irrigated areas. These tiger nuts, called Hab’el aziz in Arabic were a great source of nutrition in Egypt since at least the 5th millennium B.C. According to Tackholm, V. and Drar, M. in Flora of Egypt, vol II, first published in 1950 and again in 1973, it was believed by them to be the most ancient of foods found in Egypt after Emmer and Barley. Illustrations of Cyperus Grass are found in many tombs and it was even discovered in the stomachs of pre-dynastic mummies by F. Netolitzki, in The Ancient Egyptians and their influence on the Civilization of Europe by G. Elloit-Smith.
Specimens from many sites in Egypt can be found at the Agricultural Museum of Dokki, in Cairo.
There is a great deal of debate among Egyptologists as to the ancient name assigned to this plant. Gywis the name it is normally given however the Ebers papyrus speaks of a medicine it calls “ grains of mnwh also called snw-t” Mnwh is the plural form of mnh, papyrus or sedge, such as Cyperus. Greek scholars, Theophrastus and Pliny associated the name of several different plants with C. esculentus (or tiger nuts).
Malinathalle was one of the plants mentioned by Theophrastus as being boiled in barley beer and then eaten as a sweetmeat. This sounds similar to the above recipe except a bit more intoxicating.
The Ancient Egyptians also used this plant for medical purposes.
They prescribed the plant in mixtures for everything from; mouth chews, enemata, dressings, ointments, to fumigations, designed to sweeten the smells of the house or clothes. In the latter form it was used with myrrh. When you consider that the Ancient Egyptians ate this plant as well as using it in their medicines (as they did with so many of the plants that grew naturally or which were cultivated). They certainly got the full value of all that the Nile had to offer them.
According to Darby in Food The Gift of Osiris, C. esculentus continues to be cultivated to this day in Egypt (most likely in the Delta region). Beyond Egypt the Arabs carried it to North Africa, Sicily and Spain. Called Chufa in Spain it is made into a popular drink. In Egypt the tuber is ground and used in breads in addition to producing oil used in ointments and cosmetics. Finally the residue is used as fodder for animals.
Wikipedia says this on tiger nuts as a food:
The tubers are edible, with a slightly sweet, nutty flavour, compared to the more bitter-tasting tuber of the related Cyperus rotundus (purple nutsedge). They are quite hard, and are generally soaked in water before they can be eaten, thus making them much softer and giving them a better texture. They have various uses; in particular, they are used in Spain to make horchata. They are sometimes known by their Spanish name, chufa.
Tigernuts have excellent nutritional qualities, with a fat composition similar to olives and a rich mineral content, especially phosphorus and potassium. The oil of the tuber was found to contain 18% saturated (palmitic acid and stearic acid) and 82% unsaturated (oleic acid and linoleic acid) fatty acids.
Today besides human use in drinks and baked goods, Chufa( tiger nuts), are used as fish bate and food for wild turkeys, ducks, deer and hogs-who could imagine.
Such an ancient plant it is known in addition to the name tiger nut, as earth chestnut, earth almond, yellow nut grass, ground almond and rush nut. The plant is cultivated today in China, Spain and West Africa and the U,S.
First from Ancient Egypt
Tiger nut Sweets
Grind a quantity of tiger nuts in a mortar.
Sift the flour carefully.
To the ground tiger nuts add a bowl of honey and mix to a dough.
Transfer the dough to a shallow metal (?) vessel. Place on top of the fire and add a little fat. Boil over a gentle fire until a firm paste is obtained. It must smell roasted not burnt.
Cool and shape into tall conical loaves.
According to An Ancient Egyptian Herbal by Lise Manniche, the loaves from the above recipe were made as a special offering instituted by the king for every feast anew (or alike). This recipe was on the tomb walls of Rekhmire, vizier of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (Eighteenth Dynasty) from the fifth century BC. Ms. Manniche’s translation comes from pictures on the tomb walls themselves.
These loaves called Shat were a highly valued temple offering.
Egyptian Food and Drink by Hilary Wilson also cites the bakery scene in Rekhmire’s tomb as showing the stages of preparation of triangle loaves, also made with ground tiger nuts and sweetened with dates and honey.
From modern day Spain here is a recipe for Horchata made from Chura (tiger nuts).
Horchata is a drink that is made from extracting the flavor from different nuts depending on the desired taste. Horchata from Chufas is a very popular and refreshing summer drink in the region of Valencia, Spain where many acres are grown for that purpose. Chufas and Horchata were brought to Spain by the Moors when they came in the eighth century. The Spanish brought them to the New World.
Horchata from Chufa
1 lb. Chufas
1 lb. Sugar
2.5 Quarts of Water
1 Cinnamon Stick
Clean the chufas well by rubbing them between your hands while rinsing them in clean water. Repeat until chufas are clean (rinse water remains clean when chufas are rubbed between your hands).
Cover with 4 inches of water and soak for 12 to 14 hours.
After soaking, rinse the chufas again in clean water, changing the water until it is completely clear, then drain off all the water.
Mash the chufas or put them in a blender – to make them into a soft paste. Add a little water if needed.
Add the 2.5 quarts of water to the paste that you have made and put in the cinnamon stick. Let it sit in a cool place (like a fridge) for 2 hours.
Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Strain the mix through a mesh filter to remove the larger particles, and then through a damp fine-cloth filter. If the cloth filter did not strain the liquid enough, there are two options here:
a.) Repeat until the strained liquid does not have any large particles left.
b.) Fold or double fold your damp cloth filter and pass the liquid through the filter slowly.
The smooth milky liquid can be served as is, placed in the fridge to be served chilled later or placed in the freezer, stirring occasionally to prevent it from freezing solid, and served in slushy form.
Darby, W: Food gift of Osiris
Manniche, L: An Ancient Egyptian Herbal
Wilson, H: Egyptian Food and Drink
Bu Joanna Linsley-Poe