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Varieties of Water Chestnut

Picture of Water Chestnut

Eleocharis dulcis and Trapa natans are both considered water chestnut plants. One is often believed to be invasive, whereas the other is edible and may be used in a variety of Asian recipes, including stir-fries. Continue reading to learn more about water chestnuts.

Water chestnut is a sedge that grows in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

It is cultivated in a variety of nations for its tasty corms.

Water chestnuts are not nuts at all; in fact, they are aquatic vegetables that grow in marshes, beneath water, and in the mud. They have stem-like, tube green leaves that reach a height of around 1.5 m.

The tiny, spherical corms have crispy, white flesh and are typically pickled or canned. They may be eaten fresh, mildly cooked, or grilled. They are a frequently used element in Chinese cuisine.

In China, they are often consumed raw, albeit sometimes sweetened. Additionally, they may be processed into flour that is used to make water chestnut cakes, which are a popular component of dim sum food.


Raw water chestnuts comprise 74% water, 24% carbs, 1% protein, and very little fat. Raw water chestnuts provide 97 calories of dietary energy per 100 grams, are high in vitamin B6 (and include modest quantities of other B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium), and are low in sodium.


Water chestnuts in their raw state are somewhat sweet and crisp. Boiled water chestnuts boiled in water have a firm, somewhat crunchy texture and a mild, slightly nutty taste that is readily overwhelmed by the spices or sauces used to serve or prepare the water chestnut. They pair well with bamboo shoots, cilantro, ginger, oil from sesame seeds, and snow peas.

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Steamed or sautéed vegetable meals, such as noodles or rice dishes, may incorporate water chestnuts. They may also be used to give crunch to minced meat fillings and meals, such as Chinese dim sum-style steaming meatballs. The Thai delicacy thapthim krop, which is made mostly of water chestnuts, was voted one of CNN Travel’s top 50 desserts in the world in 2019.


The gathered corms should be refrigerated at a temperature of 4 °C (39 °F). Transpiration and hence weight loss are decreased at this temperature. Additionally, this will delay sprouting and prevent degeneration caused by minor injuries. Corms must not be kept over 13.6 °C, otherwise they may sprout. If the corms must be preserved for an extended period of time, they may also be maintained in a solution of 1000 parts per million sodium hypochlorite.


Although the water chestnut from China is generally resistant to pests, several animals and fungi may damage the plant: Water birds may wreak havoc on stems and corms, particularly when the plants are young. Similarly, rodents and grazing animals represent a hazard to the Chinese water chestnut, which may be deterred by maintaining a flooded paddy. Stems are also consumed by fly larvae (genus Trichoptera) and other leaf-eating caterpillars.

Water chestnut cultivation and care enable this underwater nut-like vegetable to be consumed either raw or cooked. In Asian regions, water chestnuts are a frequent delicacy. Water chestnuts come in two types, and only one is palatable.

Two Types of Water Chestnut

The water chestnut Eleocharis dulcis is edible. This type is often known as water chestnut from China or simply water chestnut. Despite their title, water chestnuts are really vegetables, not nuts. The water chestnut Trapa natans L. is not edible and is sometimes mistaken with the Chinese water chestnut.

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The Invasive Water Chestnut

The US Agriculture Department has designated the Trapa natans water chestnut as an invasive species (USDA). This water plant is a problem across the Great Lakes area and other waterbodies in northern states.

Water Chestnuts from Trapa Are Inedible

Many people mistake the prickly Trapa natans water chestnuts with the Eleocharis dulcis water chestnuts used in Asian and other cuisines. The Trapa natans variant of water chestnut is a prolific and invading species. Additionally, this plant’s vegetable portion contains very poisonous chemicals. As a result, it becomes inedible.

Chinese Water Chestnuts That Are Edible

Eleocharis dulcis (Chinese water chestnut) is an old Chinese food source that is often regarded as a delicacy. The plants are grown in wetlands and are rather simple to cultivate.

Water Chestnut Plants E. dulcis

As per the Missouri Botanical Garden, that water chestnut type is more like a rush than the Trapa plan’s floating triangular leaf. Eleocharis dulcis (E. dulcis) is a sedge plant, which means that its stems resemble grass.

  • Rushes reach a height of roughly two to three feet.
  • This plant generates rhizomes that grow horizontally.
  • Round tubers, also known as corms, develop at the ends of rhizomes.
  • Harvesting of the dark brown tubers.

E. dulcis Blooming Spikes

Each tuber produces a thick cluster of green stalks. Because the stems lack branches, they stand upright from the tubers. E. dulcis blossoms infrequently, particularly in cooler areas. When the yellow-brown flowers bloom, they create tubular two-inch long spikes on the grass shaft tips.

Growth, Management, and Use of Water Chestnuts

If you’re interested in growing your personal water chestnuts, you’ll be astonished at how simple these delectable tubulars are to cultivate. You can grow a bountiful harvest with little upkeep and care.

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Growing Instructions for Water Chestnuts

Here are a few tips if you want to cultivate your personal water chestnuts.

  • Height: 1′-3′
  • Width: 1′-3′
  • Full to part shade of the sun required
  • Seven-month growing season
  • Pests: Green and long-horned grasshoppers, mole crickets, and snout moths are all possible threats.
  • Disease: No immediate concerns, although stem blight caused by rust or excessive soil acidity is conceivable.
  • Planting locations: Natural shallow water regions, such as a pond or bog, as well as containers for a water garden.
  • Growing medium: Container soil, garden soil, for use in muddy locations or damp sandy/loamy areas
  • Propagation: To propagate, divide tubers.

Constructing Containers for the Growth of Water Chestnuts

You’ll need ponds or some other container large enough to store water. Certain growers make use of kiddie pools, which have the proper depth and diameter. Some individuals like tub containers.

  1. Fill the bottom of the container with 6″-8″ of potting mix or other gardening soil.
  2. Fertilize the soil using a slow release 16-6-8 fertilizer. One week is required before sowing corms.
  3. Sow corms about 2″ in depth.
  4. Place a plate on top of the dirt and pour water over it to prevent the plate from displacing the corms that have been planted.
  5. Submerge in 3″-6″ of water. The objective is to retain a muddy consistency similar to that of a swamp.
  6. Allow three feet by three feet for each plant to accommodate height and breadth. Plants that are overcrowded will yield little.
  7. Once plants reach a height of 1′, fertilize every two weeks with a fish emulsion or kelp/seaweed fertilizer.
  8. To protect plants throughout the cold, cover their pots.
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Water Chestnuts: Harvesting, Using, and Storing

Once your water chestnut crop is mature, you may store them for later use. There are several applications for these delectable corms. You’ll find that freshly harvested chestnuts are tastier than canned chestnuts.

Harvest Time

When the crowns of the plants start to turn brown, this is the first indicator that harvest season is approaching. This is a warning to progressively reduce the quantity of water applied to the chestnuts to prevent them from decaying before they can be harvested. Continue to lessen the water as the browning progresses along the stems.

  1. Harvesting begins after the plant stalks have perished.
  2. Digging the plant up by hand is necessary to prevent injuring the corms.
  3. Several chestnuts may remain connected to their rooted stalks. Take caution while removing.
  4. Gather and thoroughly clean the chestnuts to eliminate any dirt or filth.

How to Remove the Skin off Water Chestnuts

Peel cleaned chestnuts by blanching them briefly to remove the skin or by slicing off the tops and bottoms. You may now finish peeling the skin using a vegetable peeler. Place in a strainer and run the water over all the chestnuts to remove any remaining dirt or peeling. Let them to drain completely before using them.

Water Chestnuts in Culinary Uses

Water chestnuts may be sliced for ease of usage. Additionally, they may be prepared by grating, dicing, or dehydrating/pulverizing for use as a thickening agent or flour.

  • Stir-fry water chestnuts into stir-fried foods, salads of all kinds, casseroles, rice, omelets, and practically any recipe that requires a little crunch and flavor.
  • Water chestnuts may be eaten fresh, boiling, grilled, or fried.
  • Water chestnuts are high in antioxidants and vitamins/minerals; add a handful to your smoothie for an added taste boost.
  • Certain individuals prefer pickled water chestnuts.
  • Blanch entire water chestnuts in boiling water for two minutes and then chill in cold water. After peeling and draining, vacuum pack in freezer bags and freeze for up to 8 months.
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The Pleasure of Growing Water Chestnuts

Once you’ve determined that E. dulcis is the correct kind of water chestnut to cultivate, you may enjoy this magnificent food. This adaptable addition to your garden will expand your culinary options.