Would you eat Tigernuts (Tiger Nuts)? What are they? They look like shriveled chickpeas or those rare individual roasted peanuts in their shells, they taste a bit like crunchy-chewy sweet almonds, and they have been around in human diets for thousands of years. But they are relatively unheard of in the American culinary repertory until fairly recently.

A very small commercial market of Tigernut producers in the U.S. have been making a grand effort to publicize this “superfood” with a revival of the health benefits of to the masses. Tigernuts are referred to as a superfood because they are high in prebiotic fiber (which is important for creating an encouraging an environment for the body to benefit from probiotics), low in calories, dairy, allergen, and gluten-free. And what’s more, as the common English name suggests, it has reported aphrodisiac benefits (Think: Tiger Penis Soup, rawrrr!).

IMG: Dried tubers sold at the market of Banfora, Burkina Faso. Wikicommons.

Keep in mind that an aphrodisiac is a food, drink or drug that purportedly stimulates sexual desire and male performance. Historically, these included parts of animals or plants that visually or conceptually represented virility, fecundity or the sacredness of physical union. It can also include things we ingest that have high vitamins and minerals that healthfully nourish our physical capacity to enjoy sexual stimulation. The facts are, when your body is nourished, beautiful things can, ahem, arise.

You should know that Tigernuts are not nuts at all (big, sexy cat references aside), but rather tiny tubers or weeds of the botanical plant known as Yellow Nutsedge. This plant is found in most of the Eastern hemisphere, which includes the continent of Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East and Southern Europe. The Spanish Horchata de chufa or Hausa Nigerian Kunnu (or Kunun) aya was the original plant milk beverage made with Tigernuts and has a far-traveling history that spans several continents.

Kunnu/Kunun aya is traditionally made in Nigeria as either milk or a cooked pudding, with the addition of spices and natural sweeteners for flavor. It is this recipe that traveled with the Moors, eventually making its way to Valencia, Spain in the 13th century, to be renamed as Horchata (orxata), with more modern versions including rice, nuts, and seeds as the base for the milk. Who doesn’t love a sweet, creamy nut-and-spice-flavored concoction?


DID YOU KNOW

Tiger nuts were baked into loaves of bread and presented to Egyptian Pharaohs during every feast. They were called Shat and were considered a highly valuable gift. Rekhmire, vizier of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (Eighteenth Dynasty) from the fifth century BC, loved them so much that he had the stages of their preparation written on his tomb walls. (Ancient Foods)

IMG: Tomb walls of Rekhmire. Courtesy of Osirisnet – Tombs of Ancient Egypt. (www.osirisnet.net)


 

Tigernuts are readily available in higher-end health food stores like Whole Foods, as well as online with manufacturers Organic Gemini and TigerNutsUSA. They are available as a raw whole snack, sliced, powdered into flour, and even ready-made drinks. Accessible to people living varied lifestyles, Paleo and vegan enthusiasts can enjoy Tigernuts as well as those that suffer from food allergies, keep Kosher, and bakers. Sexy!

IMG: Organic Gemini’s TigerNut Raw Snack (organicgemini.com)

In my quest to try Kunun aya, I followed a recipe from Nourished Kitchen and then put my own twist on it with what I had available in my kitchen. My version includes coconut milk and coconut palm sugar and powdered ginger.

  • 1 part raw whole or sliced Tigernuts
  • 2 parts distilled or filtered water
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cardamom pods (or ½ tsp powdered cardamom)
  • 1 tsp. organic powdered ginger
  • ½ cup organic coconut palm sugar
  • 1 13.5 oz. can of unsweetened organic coconut milk
  • Soak the Tigernuts, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom in the water in the fridge covered for 12 to 24 hours. Water should cover the Tigernuts by at least 2 inches. Tigernuts will take on a crunchier consistency than when dry.
  • Scoop the Tigernuts and spices and half of the liquid into a high-powered blender or Bullet, blend until nuts are finely ground, and liquid is cloudy.
  • Pour over a fine mesh strainer with a cheesecloth and strain. If you have access to a nut milk bag, you may take the remainder of the grounds and squeeze them again, pressing as much of the liquid out as possible.
  • Repeat this process with the ground mix and the remainder of the soaking liquid. Set aside the strained and squeezed Tigernut grounds for another use (they’re still full of goodness!).
  • Take the finished Tigernut milk and combine with coconut milk (1/2 to entire can, based on creaminess preference).
  • Blend again with coconut palm sugar. Adjust to taste.
  • Pour finished mixture over ice and serve chilled.

IMG: Bottle of Cacao Kunnu Aya made by Oh SO Nutrition. (ohsonutrition.com)

Whether you are considering your options for a healthier lifestyle that solves many modern health complications at once, or you’re simply looking for an all-natural tasty and spicy treat to get you in the mood, you should include Tigernuts. It has reportedly been used for millennia by our forebears in faraway lands, and it’s still good for us today!

 

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