Cyperus esculentus, C. rotundus: Serious Sedges

There are two edible Cyperus locally: One that tastes like hazelnuts and one that smells and tastes to me exactly like Vic’s Vapor Rub. Guess which one I happen to find more often?

Chufa, Yellow Nut Sedge, Cyperus esculentus

Cyperus esculentus, the yellow nut sedge, is native to warmer parts of the Northern Hemisphere. It has been in use since ancient Egyptian times and is cultivated around the Mediterranean. The roots reach the size of hazelnuts and have a similar taste. They are excellent raw right out of the ground, boiled or roasted. Its tops are yellowish.

Cyperus rotundus, the purple nut sedge, is also edible raw but is laced with the VIC’s aroma which lessen on drying. However, before that they can be used as an insect repellant, a case of wear outside this week and eat inside next week. Its tops are purplish.

Chufa with nutlets

Chufa (CHOO-fah) Cyperus esculentus, the yellow nut sedge, is listed as a noxious weed in many places and difficult to control. It can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant per season. Researchers say a single nutsedge can produce 1900 plants and 7000 tubers in a year. That’s a lot of food. And remember sedges have edges and these sedges have three sides, like a triangle. All sedge seeds are edible, according to Ray Mears and Gordon Brown.

In Egypt and the Mediterranean nut sedges were used as sources for food, medicine and perfumes. The tubers were usually roasted. Dried ground tubers were used to extend coffee and chocolate. Chufa oil was an ingredient in perfumed soap and a lubricant for fine machinery. The leafy parts were  fed to livestock. A relative, Cyperus papyrus in Egypt, was the first source for paper there and is an escaped weed in many warm states. Here in Florida it is a common ornamental in water gardens. Interestingly, Chufas are very similar to olives in nutrition. The boiled nutlets are also good carp bait.

The genus name Cyperus (sye-PEER-us) is from Cypeirus which was the ancient Greek name for the plant. Esculentus (es-kyew-LEN-tus) means “edible” referring to the tubers.  Rotundus (roh-TUHN-duh) means round.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile: Chufa

IDENTIFICATION: Cyperus esculentus: Annual monocot to three feet tall, solitary stems growing from a tuber, stems triangular bearing slender leaves one to three inches wide, flowers a cluster of flat oval seeds surrounded by four hanging leaf bracts at 90 degrees. Tough, fibrous, mistaken for a grass.  It can be distinguished from other New World nutsedge by linear brown spiklets with overlapping scales

TIME OF YEAR: August to November

ENVIRONMENT: Old fields, cultivated ground, upland prairies, pond margins, stream edges, pastures, roadsides, railroads.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Rub nutlet to loosen husk. C. esculentus edible raw or cooked. C. rotundus edible raw but better if allowed to dry a few days then consumed raw or cooked. Nutlets can be hard. Soaking in water eases that problem. All sedge seeds (on top) around the world are edible.

HERB BLURB

C. rotundus is used in Chinese medicine, especially pain associated with menstruation. It is also used for stomach aches and diarrhea, to treat impotence, bacterial infections, and dry or tired eyes. C. rotundus is also used as a diuretic and for high blood pressure. A paste of the plant is also spread on the skin as a bactericide and a fungicide to prevent infection of wounds. In two studies, compounds found in extracts from the root of C. rotundus were isolated and several have anti-malarial properties.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

cutopia August 7, 2017 at 16:13

So many people get bent out of shape trying to get this stuff out of their lawn… they are wasting all sorts of money killing off a good food!

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Charles de C. March 21, 2017 at 17:04

We have a small local species which grows in some Pine Barrens lake beaches, especially sandy ones. It gets very tiny tubers that are almost sugary sweet inside, versus the weedy larger chufa I get in my garden and lawn that has tubers which are pretty bland.

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godfrey July 19, 2015 at 00:05

Have a major problem with this product in western cape south Africa. Is anyone interested in marketing or exports. Thank you for your information very interesting.

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Heather July 5, 2015 at 14:45

Any harvesting tips?

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Fay May 21, 2015 at 12:36

The article mentions they are native to warmer northern hemispheres. Can they survive in zone 3a if certain precautions were observed, or is it not worth the effort?

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Will May 24, 2015 at 18:20

My wife just finished taking a photography class about an hour ago. She took a picture of a sign that talked about Native Americans. The sign said carbon dating was done on some pots that were found and they were able to determine the food that was prepared in those pots. The carbon dating showed the pots were from around 200 bc and listed the food. One of the foods listed was Sedges. From the simple research I have done in the last hour, I believe (not 100% certain) that Sedges is the same as C. rotundus; or one of the two types listed in the article above. The picture was taken in Central Minnesota near an Indian Reservation. I would imagine if they can survive this far North, you might be able to find them in your location. The sign said Sedges was a staple of their diet. I believe we are also in Zone 3a or 3b.

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Jay Dee January 14, 2015 at 00:10

Does ergot stay with the seed heads or will it spread to the tubers?

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Green Deane January 14, 2015 at 09:14

My understanding is that it is topical.

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GalacitcMuffin September 16, 2014 at 00:13

I heard that cultivated Nutsedge in Spain was also the main ingredient in the popular creamy drink, Horchata. Which is by far one of my favorite imported Spanish drinks.

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Stacy July 24, 2014 at 16:10

I am interested in introducing this plant on my property as a food crop. If I harvest in the fall, what are good ways to save the tubers for consumption throughout winter? Drying in the sun, then storing in canning jars in a cool, dark place? Leave in the ground like sunchokes and harvest throughout the winter to use fresh? Your suggestions?

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Rick July 18, 2017 at 13:31

When you get the pods plant them.Next,get a pair of gophers.They spread the pods thru out your garden underground.

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Theodore L. Randolph January 8, 2014 at 08:26

I Love Chufa Tubers

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Hannah B. July 19, 2013 at 11:54

Hi There!
I am wondering if perhaps you could help me with something.
I am attempting to do a dissertation in Experimental Archaeology and I am doing experiments involving the use of Cyperus Rotundus and Juncus Odoratus. My issue is that they do not grow around where I am currently located… Sheffield UK. I am having a lot of trouble trying to get a hold of these I was wondering if it might be possible for you or someone to send me some of either of these plants so that I might be able to complete my dissertation.
Please let me know what you think.
Thanks for you time and the info above has been very helpful.
Regards,
Hannah

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Metala August 20, 2014 at 18:53

I wonder how this plants have the same use in my village in Nigeria as well as far away China. My grand parent told me they use it to cure importency and miscriages. It is near extinction everyone around here have turned to western drugs. If not for my project I would not have known.

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Nermina November 29, 2012 at 00:08

After we rented a plot in the garden community and started working on it we realized it was extremely infested with nutgrass. We threw away several trash cans full of that nut stuff only to discover just recently on the internet that it was all edible ?! So now I am trying to figure out if I could cook it as beans maybe in stew ? Is there any nutsedge cookbook around ? Anyone that eats it ?

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levi April 14, 2013 at 20:29

Its applications in Western Africa often encompass either paps(Think porridge) or beverages. The strained material after making beverages can be used with or without other flours in doughs for various uses.

Its amino acid profile is very complimentary to grain & legumes make a complete protein.

Soaking for atleast 6 hours reduces the level of tannins and phenols.

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Keith May 24, 2012 at 17:45

Awesome plant

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