Presently, there has been some new developments and advancements towards the use of nutritious foods in alleviating the difficulties of malnutrition and short food supply, especially in the underdeveloped countries. Apart from the widely available food products, much attention has also been drawn towards underutilised crops as a means of boosting food supply, improving nutritional value and human health.

One of such crops is the tiger nut, which is popularly known as earth almond and botanically known as Cyperus esculentus. Tiger nut (Cyperus esculentus) belongs to the family of Cyperaceae that is characterised by rhizomes and spherical edible tubers. The less attention paid towards this crop is due to the unavailability of information on their nutritional values. Tiger nut is a perennial or annual plant that grows triangular stems with slender leaves and oval seeds.

The plant has a similar appearance with that of a green grass however the roots are more fibrous with small roundish tubers and scaly rhizomes. The plant grows approximately 90 cm tall and produces seeds that are yellow, brown, black, golden or straw coloured in appearance. Tiger nuts are known by other names such as nut grass, aki awusa, yellow nutsedge, Zulu nuts, aku Hausa, chew­fa, chufa, Akiausa, tiger nut sedge, aya, chufa sedge, Ayaya or Ofio. Earth almonds are distinguished by their fleshy nature and are usually consumed raw but can also be dried, fried, roasted, toasted or soaked before consumption.

Although this crop is edible and highly consumed in most parts of the world, some countries still consider it as a weed. In a single growing season, one tiger nut plant is capable of producing hundreds and thousands of tubers and are capable of re-germinating over several years. Tiger nuts can be dried before storage and they tend to lose large proportions of water in the process. As a result  of such water loss during storage, these dried tiger nuts can equally be soaked overnight to gain water before consumption.

Tiger nut is originally from places like Guatemala, USA, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Yemen, Chile, the Middle East, Oman, India, South Sudan, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, Lebanon, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Sudan, Morocco and southern Europe before spreading to other parts of the world such as New South Wales, Hawaii, China, New Guinea, Ukraine, Indochina and Java. Researchers have revealed that tiger nuts contain anti-nutritional properties however, these anti-nutrients can be reduced by soaking or toasting the nuts.

Nutritional Values of Tiger Nuts

Tiger nuts are an excellent source of dietary fibre, sugar, phosphorus, carbohydrates, fat, protein, potassium, zinc, sodium, calcium, magnesium and traces of copper, vitamin C and vitamin E.
These nutrients, vitamins and minerals are essential for building and maintaining healthy bones, repairing damaged tissues/muscles, aid blood circulation as well as supports the healthy functioning of the human body.

Benefits of Tiger Nuts

Consumption Purposes
Tiger nut is characterised by nutty sweet taste and can be eaten either raw, dried, roasted, steamed, soaked or processed into tiger nut oil or tiger nut milk. It can also be processed into flour, which is used for baking. Tiger nuts can be used for making both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks such as beer, ice creams and kunnu.

Tiger nuts can also be used for preparing beverages such as horchata de chufa or Atadwe, which is a sweet drink with a similar appearance like milk. Tiger nut milk is a better alternative for individuals that are lactose intolerant. Tiger nuts can also be used for preparing side dishes. The oil has similar properties with olive oil and can be used for frying food and for dressing salads.

Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases
Tiger nuts have been categorised as a health food thus including them in our diets is essential for preventing cardiovascular diseases such as heart problems.
Boosts Fertility
The high content of vitamin E in tiger nuts is vital for boosting both male and female fertility. These nuts are also essential for triggering normal menstruation.
Cosmetology Purposes
Cosmetologists use the tiger nuts oil for manufacturing body creams and ointments. The vitamin E content of the tiger nuts helps to prevent and reduce skin wrinkles and ageing of the body cells.
Reduces the Risk of Colon Cancer
Tiger nuts are rich in fibre thus consuming them minimise the risk of colon cancer.
Detoxifies the Liver
Consumption of tiger nuts is essential for detoxifying the liver and eradicating toxins from the human body.
Maintains a Healthy Cholesterol Level
Tiger nuts help to reduce LDL bad cholesterol as well promotes good cholesterol.
Weight Management
Tiger nut is an excellent source of dietary fibre thus its consumption is essential for shedding excess weight from the body thereby promoting healthy body weight and preventing obesity.

Treatment of Gastrointestinal Problems
Studies reveal that tiger nuts are natural stimulants thus very essential for treating gastrointestinal diseases such as food indigestion, constipation, flatulence, dysentery, colic and diarrhoea.
Diuretic Properties
Studies reveal that the tiger nuts are diuretic in nature thus promotes urine production.
Fishing Purposes
Tiger nuts can be soaked, boiled and allowed to ferment for at least 1 day before being used as fishing baits for capturing fishes. It is important to note that raw or unprepared tiger nuts can be poisonous to fishes.

Tiger Nuts Milk Recipe

1. Sort and wash the raw tiger nuts properly.
2. Add the washed nuts in a blender with a reasonable amount of water then blend thoroughly.
3. Pour the slurry tiger nuts into a muslin cloth then press gently with the back of a big spoon to extract the milk.
N:B - While sieving the tiger nuts milk adjust the amount of water being added based on the size of the slurry.
4. The tiger nut milk extract can be drunk immediately or pasteurised at 162 oF for five seconds. Afterwards, allow to cool down before serving. The milk can be flavoured, sweetened or unsweetened before consumption.
N:B - If you are using the dried tiger nuts, soak the nuts overnight before processing.

Benefits of the Tiger Nuts Milk

~ Due to the high cost of milk in the under-developed and developing countries, cheaper alternatives such as the tiger nut milk has been highly acceptable by the people.
~ Tiger nuts milk is a rich source of essential nutrients that are vital for growing children and adults.
~ Tiger nut milk is an excellent source of calcium, which is essential for building and maintaining healthy/strong bones and teeth.
~ Tiger nuts milk is free from lactose, which makes it conducive for lactose intolerant individuals.
~ Tiger nuts milk serves as an energy drink.

This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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