The Nutritional Value of Chufa (tigernut)

Which crops are best for fighting world hunger? The answer depends on which crops produce the most macronutrients per hectare per year. And since hunger is primarily due to a lack of dietary fat, and secondarily due to a lack of protein, the most important anti-hunger crops will have a high productivity of protein or fat per hectare-year.

In my analysis of over 130 crops for their macronutrient productivity, chufa was by far the most productive source of dietary fat. The range of yields for chufa is 8 to 14 metric tonnes per hectare (t/ha). I reduce the yield by 20% (to 80%) to account for losses in cleaning and drying the crop. The chufa (or tigernut) tuber is about 30% fat. This results in a per crop oil yield, at the high end of the range, of 3360 kg of fat per hectare-crop. With a four month growing season, the per year value becomes 10,080 kg of fat per ha-year. For a low yield of 8 t/ha, the value per crop is 1920 kg/ha-crop, and the value per year is 5760 kg/ha-yr.

Chufa is also called tigernut or yellow nutsedge or earth almond. The Latin plant name is: Cyperus esculentus var. sativus. Cyperus is the genus; esculentus is the species, and sativus is the variety (var.). The term sativus is a Latin word referring to the sowing of seed. So when the term is used to describe a food crop, it means that the plant is the domesticated version of a wild plant.

The edible part of the chufa plant is the tuber, which is about the size of a peanut. The chufa tuber is brown, wrinkled, and oblong: about 10 mm by 15 mm in diameter and length. The tuber is much firmer than other tubers, such as potato. To be eaten, the chufa can be boiled in water, or the dried tuber can be ground into flour, or it can be pressed for oil.

Chufa has the highest yield of oil per hectare per year of any source of dietary fat. Chufa can even out-produce palm fruit oil, which is, by total world production volume, the world’s foremost oil crop. The oil palm tree produces 3524 kg of oil per hectare-year from the fruit plus 418 kg/ha-yr from the kernel, for 3942 kg of dietary fat per hectare-year total. Even at the low end of the range of yields, chufa out produces the oil palm tree by 46%. And for a high yield, chufa produces over 150% more dietary fat (2.55 times as much).

Chufa is the most important oil staple crop for ameliorating world hunger.

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