This useful plant has many names: in the countries of the Arab world it is called the sweet root, in North Africa it is called the Zulu nut, and in North America - the reed nut, in Germany - the earthen almond, and in Portugal and Brazil - the tuberous grass, in our country it they are called common, winter road, walnut squeegee or chufa, the last name came to us from Spain. It has been known to man since the time of Ancient Egypt, in those days it was taken with them on a long journey, which is why archaeologists found vessels with chufa in the tombs of the pharaohs of the 2nd-3rd millennia BC. NS. In Russia, it has been cultivated by amateurs as an annual plant since the 19th century, but even today it is a great rarity in garden plots, and there is very little information about it.
Chufa (Cyperus esculentus) comes from the Mediterranean and North Africa. This is a perennial herb of the sedge family; in the conditions of our Non-Black Earth Region, it is often grown as an annual crop. The aboveground part strongly resembles ordinary sedge, the underground part resembles small potatoes.
The bush of this plant consists of long and narrow (5-10 mm), hard, sessile leaves, collected in bunches. The leaves are shiny, green. Compact bushes reach a height of 30-70 cm, due to its attractive appearance, it can be used as a decoration for the garden. Flowers are small, bisexual, yellow, collected in umbrellas. A well-developed rhizome consists of numerous thin underground shoots, on which ovoid or spherical nodules are formed, similar to nuts, covered with a dense brownish-gray rind. During the growing season, one plant can produce up to three thousand (!) Small tubers. Collect only medium and large, reaching a size of 2 to 4 cm and weighing up to 2 g.
The dense yellowish-white nutty core of tubers is very nutritious, it contains 30-35% starch, 15-20% sugars, 20-25% oil, 3-7% protein substances, as well as provitamin A, vitamins C and E, calcium and phosphorus. To taste, the fruits of chufa are somewhat reminiscent of hazelnuts or almonds.
It can multiply both by seeds and by planting nodules. It is able to withstand small frosts down to -1 ° С, but planting nodules in the ground is best done when the soil at a depth of 12-15 cm warms up to + 12 ° С. Prefers areas well-lit by the sun, with fertile, light loamy, moisture-permeable soil. Heavy clayey and excessively moist soils are practically unsuitable for growing this crop.
Before planting, nuts must be soaked in water for 3-4 days, changing it every day. It is necessary to plant nodules in grooves to a depth of 4-5 cm every 20-25 cm from each other in a row and at a distance of 55-60 cm between rows. The emergence of seedlings can take from 10 to 14 days, and in cool weather even up to 20 days. When the chufa bushes grow, they need to be slightly spud, almost like potatoes. Light additional hilling should be carried out after weeding, watering and heavy rains, otherwise the root system of the plant may be exposed.
Watering is carried out as needed, if the summer is rainy, the chufu may not be watered at all.
Feeding plants with complex fertilizers during the growing season is carried out in two weeks. Slurry diluted with water in a 1: 3 ratio and wood ash are very useful.
The main pests of this culture are ants, wireworms and bears, who love to feast on underground "nuts".
By the end of summer, the plants reach a height of 60-70 cm. But it is better to dig them up at the end of September, when the tops begin to turn yellow. Such late harvesting promotes good maturation of the nodules and the accumulation of a large amount of oil in them, which mainly occurs at the very end of the growing season.
Cleaning of nodules must be very careful, carefully digging into each plant with a shovel.The dug nodules are shaken off the ground on a metal mesh, washed on the same mesh with water from a hose, and nuts are manually collected, which are then dried in the sun or indoors so that wrinkles appear on their skin. After that, the crop can be stored in the basement or stored indoors. Dried nuts can be stored in a dry room at a temperature of 10-18 ° C for 2-3 years, while maintaining their germination and their taste.
Tubers can be used as raw materials for substitutes and fillers for coffee, cocoa, chocolate, sweets and other confectionery products, as well as excellent edible and industrial oil, drying oil, nutritious flour, almond surrogate, raw material for obtaining sugar, starch, replacement of dessert nuts and chestnuts ; in addition, they can be used in medicine.
This plant has a significant yield - 1 hectare in the middle zone of the European part of Russia gives 30-40 centners of raw tubers, in terms of the calorie content of the crop per unit area, earthen almonds surpass all our food crops, including the most nutritious of them - peanuts - by almost 3 times ...
A serious obstacle to the industrial processing of its tubers is the presence of a hard-to-separate inedible skin (hypodermis), which reduces the quality of the product. Currently, our country does not produce products of processing of the tubers of earthen almonds. But abroad, flour from its nodules is used as an excellent raw material for the confectionery industry and a substitute for sweet almonds, and its oil is used in industry and in the production of cosmetics. This crop is cultivated in Spain, Italy, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, South America.
Chufa oil is light yellow in color with the smell of almonds, belongs to the group of olive-like (non-drying) oils with oleic acid content, in terms of its organoleptic and physicochemical characteristics, it can adequately compete with both almond and olive oils. In addition, it is perfectly stored, despite the rich content of enzymes, it does not oxidize, does not turn rancid and does not lose its nutritional value and taste in air and in the light, even during the year. It is also used in the production of luxury toilet soaps.
The aboveground part of the plant is not inferior in nutritional value to cereal grasses and is used as feed for domestic animals both fresh and in the form of silage.