Nutsedge: The Edible Garden Foe


HorchataNutsedge has gotten a bad rap, but for good reason. This pesky weed has been known to infest gardens, spreading thousands of nutlets underground and reproducing at an alarming rate (see our readers’ nutsedge woes). While this rather invasive plant has caused many a groan from gardeners, it has one redeeming quality: nutsedge is edible.

Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus), sometimes called Earth almond or Chufa, has tuberous roots that can be eaten raw or cooked. Their sweet, nutty flavor makes them ideal for a multitude of recipes, from soups to sweets. According to Cornucopia II: A Sourcebook of Edible Plants, yellow nutsedge was used to add sweetness to ancient Egyptian barley juice, and in Spain, the tubers are added to horchata de chufa (see photo), a beverage “prepared by mixing the ground tubers with water, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla and ice.”

Purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus) also has edible roots. Freshly-dug purple nutsedge has a strong menthol flavor that Cornucopia II compares to Vicks VapoRub, so, while the raw tubers can be eaten immediately, they’re best after drying. Like the yellow variety, purple nutsedge can be eaten boiled or roasted.

William Woys Weaver even suggests growing your own nutsedge for food in his book, “Heirloom Vegetable Gardening.” Praising the tubers’ similarities to other nuts, he says, “In texture, [nutsedge] is somewhat mealy like a chestnut, yet with a distinct almondlike flavor. It was used by country people as an almond substitute in cookies and confectionery, and was even pounded with sugar to make a type of faux marzipan once quite popular among the Pennsylvania Germans.”

If you’ve got a nutsedge invasion on your hands, it may be hard to see the situation as anything other than aggravating. The April/May 2011 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS will contain some great tips on how to kick the weeds for good. Until then, don’t hesitate to turn a somber situation into a delicious one.

Lindsey Siegele is the Senior Web Editor at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on .

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