Water chestnut is a type of aquatic plant that grows abundant in subtropical regions. Water chestnut is an invasive plant that comes with leafless stems. Despite its name, this plant is not related to water chestnut which is a hard-shelled nut.
Water chestnuts have a range of uses in the kitchen. It is primarily used to add some crunch to stir-fries, toasts, patties, and bacon-wrapped dishes. Other than that, you can use water chestnuts for making tea to get its health benefits.
The simplest way to get water chestnuts is to buy them in the can. But if you want them fresh, consider growing them at home. Yes, it’s possible to grow them in containers using sandy soil. Growing water chestnut in aquaponics works best for water chestnuts, but building your own aquaponics can be costly. If you have plans in growing your own water chestnut, the entire process can take as long as 8 months and in 7 months of those 8 they need to have frost free growth. xIf you want to learn the process, here’s how to grow water chestnuts in your garden:
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Grow Water Chestnuts
Step 1: First, prep your soil a couple of weeks prior to planting. Add a lot of compost, manure, and agricultural waste like wood scraps and peat moss to improve the quality of the soil, you can purchase these supplies via online or in your local agricultural stores. Ideally, look for some soil that has a pH level of somewhere in between 6.5-7.2, they thrive the best in this pH level of soil.
Step 2: Next, bury the corm on your potting mix. You can also use seeds because water chestnut seeds are now widely available. The corm should be buried at least three inches deep. Use a spade or a small shovel to dig the hole that’s large enough for the water chestnut seedling or corm to fit into. Finish the process by placing the water chestnut into the hole and cover it with soil then pack it tightly.
It’s recommended to add in sand and dolomite to increase the acidity level of your soil. It is recommended that the you only fill per 1 square foot of soil with only 1 or 2 corms since the water chestnuts propagate quite quickly. Make sure that the location you have chosen to plant your chestnuts on are not shady Your water chestnuts should at least have partial shade or even better full sunlight.
If you live in a country that have winter months you have to plan as to when to start planting your water chestnut. As is stated before, water chestnuts need at least 7 months of growth frost free. It takes a at least 6-7 months for your water chestnut to fully reach its maturity, so it’s necessary that you start planting your water chestnut in early spring so that when fall comes in it is ripe for harvest. If by chance you have missed this time slot, then you have to postpone the growth until the next year or you can either grow them in a greenhouse or indoors.
Step 3: For the third step, fill your pot with water three inches above the soil. The water you are going to use for the water chestnut plants should only be room temperature so that you won’t shock the plants when you introduced the water to them.
You can also use large rectangular pots or old buckets. Growing water chestnut in containers is likely if you have a huge space. Continue to do this step until the time of harvesting, which is eight months since planting.
During its growth phase, you have to continually check regularly for your pot’s water level. It takes at least 6-7 months before you can harvest your chestnuts. During this time, make sure that the water level of the pot should at continually remain at 3 inches. Check the water level once a week and refill it with water if you noticed a drop in the water level.
Step 4: Finally, drain off the water but make sure the soil is moist. Do this for a month before harvesting. The plant can grow up to four meters long under the ground. Place the plant in a warm area.
More Water Chestnut Care Tips
The secret to growing healthy water chestnuts is ensuring the roots will be free from disturbance. The roots of water chestnuts are quite sensitive so you have to be careful when harvesting or transplanting them. Water chestnut is one of the plants that do not like to be moved places.
It’s crucial to use acidic soil in growing water chestnuts. You can test the acidity of your soil with a pH tester. If you don’t have that tool, you can mix baking soda and water then pour it on the soil. The bubbles indicate that soil is acidic. The range should fall between 6 to 7. You can use a combination of fertilizers to acidify your soil.
The water chestnut is not prone to pest infestation. But you have to watch out for big animals that may eat the corms. It can be a big concern if you have a farm next to your yard. Livestock animals such as geese and ducks are notorious for munching on water chestnut seeds. In summer months, the water above your soil can also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
How to Harvest Water Chestnuts
The signs that your water chestnut is ripe for harvest is when its leaves turn yellow. It is crucial to time it correctly or else your water chestnut won’t be ripe enough for consumption.
You have to dig up your water chestnut plant to get the corms, which is the edible part of the plant. You can save the large water chestnuts for later when you are going to replant the water chestnut for the next growing season. They are not easy to harvest and that explains why they can be quite expensive. The corms are small and round in shape. It looks like turnips but it comes with white flesh known for its sweet flavor.
After you have dig up the water chestnuts, rinse them off with cold tap water before storing them. Wipe them dry with a towel after you have rinsed it.
Don’t store and peel the water chestnut before storing them. The flesh should not be exposed or they will be easily damaged. Simply keep them in a plastic bag. They can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you don’t want to store them in the fridge, just make sure to keep them in a cool and dry place. During this time, the water chestnut should slowly harden and its leaves turn brown. To know if they are ripe for consumption, their outer coating should be tough and its color dark brown.
Benefits of Eating Water Chestnuts
For every four pieces of raw water chestnuts, you can get as much as 1 gram of fiber, 8.6 grams of carbohydrates, and half a gram of protein. For that amount, you will not get any fat and that’s only 35 calories.
Water chestnut is a good source of antioxidants. It also boasts anti-cancer properties. You can use it as a natural treatment for urinary tract infection and cough. The best part about water chestnuts is you can eat them raw or cooked. It’s sweet and flavorful, and just like the chestnut we often mistook for them, they have a pleasant nutty taste.
Did you know that water chestnuts have compounds similar to that of chili peppers? This compound is responsible for making your water chestnuts crunchy. It stays crunchy even after cooking them or exposing them to heat.
Growing water chestnuts in aquaponics or container are best suited for seasoned gardeners. It may seem like a difficult plant to grow for novice gardeners because of their specific requirements. You have to be willing to experiment or go through trial and error to be successful at growing water chestnuts. Otherwise, you will give up even before your water chestnuts become ready for harvesting.
It’s fine to use water chestnut seeds and corms in cultivating water chestnuts. You can buy the seeds from online stores specializing in plants while you can purchase the corms from nurseries. Now that you learned how to grow water chestnuts, you can finally start your journey and see how they thrive in your climate.
Water chestnuts are prized for their culinary uses and medicinal benefits. They are a wholesome choice when you’re looking for a low-calorie treat. It’s also free from cholesterol and sodium, making it a healthy ingredient to your homecooked meals. Why plant your water chestnuts? Because they taste better when fresh!