Tigernuts or chufas (also known as almendras de la tierra, earth almonds), as they are known in Spanish are not a nut, they are a tuber. Chufas were cultivated and prized for their healing and regenerative powers back in ancient Egypt and traces of them have been found in Egyptian tombs. Chufas are now widely grown in the sandy soils of La Comunitat Valenciana and are used to the make the very popular milky-like drink, horchata de chufa. Chufas even have their own denominación de origen status (like wines), Chufa de Valencia.
The tigernut about the size of an almond, but round-shaped and with a rough, pitted exterior. As a tuber, it is buried beneath the ground until it is harvested and prepared for consumption. The chufa tubers are harvested, washed to rid them of sand or small stones, then dried in the sun for two-to-three months and turned several times to insure even drying. Later, the chufas are rehydrated by soaking them in water for several hours, often overnight, then either blended with water and sugar and drunk as horchata and eaten as a snack, like almonds or peanuts, except the chufa has a natural sweetness.
The chufa is though to have arrived in Spain in the Levante, the Comunitat Valenciana, during the Moorish occupation of Spain. The Moors brought in irrigation channels and made the dry regions of the Mediterranean flourish with citrus groves, almond trees, chufa plantations and other crops.
About Gerry Dawes
Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.
In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés.
". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009.
Gerry Dawes can be reached at email@example.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): firstname.lastname@example.org