That was the case with water chestnuts until just a few years ago.
I didn’t know they were a sedge, I didn’t know that they were different from the invasive water chestnut, and I couldn’t find any planting stock for testing in Florida.
That is, until my friends at the USDA hooked me up with a few to try out this last winter. I planted them in jars of mud on my windowsill until the weather warmed up outside, then snagged an old bathtub from a family member, put in some potting soil, and planted one in it.
Here’s what I started with:
And here’s what I had a month or two later:
And by July:
These plants grow like mad. When the leaves began dying back and I started pulling them up a few weeks ago, I found I had piles of water chestnuts for eating and planting.
NOTE: How I grew them this last year was not quite correct. First off, I added too much water to the tub and not enough dirt in the bottom. I got a lot of small and squashed corms from this method. Next year, I’m growing them in these bad boys:
Yep. Those are old hot tubs behind my greenhouse. I actually have three now, all of which will be growing food for me this next spring.
Until then, however, I’m keeping some water chestnuts growing in the greenhouse. Here’s how to grow water chestnuts:
Step 1: Find something that holds water.
Step 2: Put some good dirt in it.
Step 3: Plant a water chestnut a few inches deep.
Step 4: Add water until it’s over the soil line.
Growing water chestnuts is totally easy. Just wait – within a few days, that chestnut will pop up. They grow like crazy, as mentioned previously, and the “nuts” will be all over the place beneath the muck in about 6-7 months.
Alternately, you can grow water chestnuts in kiddie pools or swampy areas. For low-work yield, they’re hard to beat. They’re even pretty good nutritionally. Plus… the flavor is superb. Nothing at all like the canned or frozen blah you get with Chinese takeout.
The only downside I’ve found on Chinese water chestnuts is that they’re a pain to process. Peeling the corms takes time!
UPDATE: Check out this rare video of a Yanomami Indian growing water chestnuts in the Amazon:
Name: Water chestnuts,Chinese water chestnuts
Latin Name: Eleocharis dulcis
Type: Perennial water sedge
Size: Around 2-5′ tall
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Exposure: Full sun
Part Used: Corms
Propagation: Corms, division
Method of preparation: Raw, cooked, pickled
Storability: Decent. Keep in cold damp sand or can them.
Ease of growing: Easy