Growing Chinese Water Chestnuts (Eleocharis dulcis) –
This plant is native of tropical and temperate areas of East Asia, the pacific islands, Madagascar and West Africa. It naturally grows in marshy ground, which is seasonally flooded. It has half a metre to one metre high with light green cylindrical rush like foliage. It prefers a fairly heavy clay based soil with lots of organic fertilizer and a long hot growing season in a warm spot.
-Plant out corms in early spring or plants in summer so that the crown or growing tip of the plant is 3cm below soil level in pots or tubs.
-If planting corms, allow to be only damp until you see the little green shoots coming out of the soil.
-Once plants have started to grow, gradually increase the water supply either by flooding in tubs or lowering pots deeper into water till the growing tip is 4 to 10cm below the water surface.
-As autumn arrives, either lift pots gradually out of the water or allow tubs to dry out by evaporation till they are no wetter than the average pot plant when winter arrives.
-The tops will die back and be straw coloured.
-Harvest the corms which will be anywhere through the top 100mm of soil only after there has been some good cold weather to sweeten the corms.
-Large corms can be pealed and eaten raw or cooked in stir fry and other Asian cooking.
-Store corms to be replanted next season in a dark, cold place in cold water or damp sphagnum moss.
Good points about Chinese water chestnuts-
– they are a good alternative food crop
– they store well
– suit permaculture principles by using another niche to garden productively
– can be grown in a space as little as a 20cm pot which can be submerged in water.
– have a great crispy texture even when cooked.
Pests and problems-
Water chestnuts are not very successful grown in dams where stock have access to the water edge as animals will eat the green growing tops. Ducks, wild and domestic will puddle in mud and dig up and eat the corms if given half a chance. When soil dry out towards the end of the season mole crickets and witchety grubs may burrow in the soil and damage corms, so watch out for evidence of tunnels.
Water chestnut Cake Recipe –
150g Water chestnut flour (from Asian grocery suppliers)
One and a half cups water
500g peeled water chestnuts, chopped
Two thirds cup milk
One and one half cups caster sugar
* blend flour with a little water to make a paste, Then gradually add the rest of the water and stir to mix.
* In a saucepan place water chestnuts, butter, milk and sugar over moderate heat and bring to the boil, stirring often.
* Add half the flour mix and stir well, the repeat, adding the rest of the flour mix and stir constantly till mix is thick and leaves the sides of the pan.
* pour into a greased 7 or 8 inch cake tin, cover well with foil and place into a steamer over boiling water for 25 to 30 minutes.
* allow to cool in the tin then turn out and slice into diamond shapes to serve.
* stores well in the fridge for days and is a great addition to any Asian meal.