During my time writing and compiling this website, I have documented many of my personal ‘food for thought’ experiences of discovering interesting and thought provoking foods. A chance encounter with tigernuts at a food sampling event at Wholefoods Tribeca was definitely one of these moments.
While browsing around the sampling stations, I was attracted to an unfamiliar drink called Tigernut Horchata that was being sampled by a company called Organic Gemini under the brand name Our True Roots. My curiosity was initially sparked by the cultural story of horchata and its Spanish roots. However, I soon learnt that tigernuts have an equally compelling story of their own.
So, what are tigernuts?
Even though they sound like they are a variety of nut, tigernuts are actually a form of tuber or root vegetable. These curious tubers masquerading as nuts are members of the sedge or Cyperaceae family, and grow in various locations around the world. They are known as chufa in Spain and Hispanic countries, and are the primary ingredient used to make a popular sweet, milky beverage called horchata de chufa.
So, what makes tigernuts unique?
What makes tigernuts especially unique is the combination of their nutrient profile and their fascinating links to mankind’s historic past. Academic research and archaeological records show that tigernuts formed a vital part of the diet of our prehistoric ancestors. Their nutrient density made them a ideal food for ancient man and makes them a beneficial food for modern man – they are an energy-rich food that contains a balanced combination of macro-nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and oleic acid. Aside from these traditional measures of nutrition, tigernuts are also a source of resistant starch. For those of you, like myself, who are new to resistant starch, it is a healthy prebiotic fibre that resists digestion by the human body.
So what do tigernuts taste like?
Tigernuts have a pleasant, lightly sweet flavour profile akin to nuts such as hazelnuts and coconuts. Due to their resistant starch content, they have a slightly more chewy, fibrous texture than most nuts.
I visited Organic Gemini’s office in Brooklyn, New York City and spoke to James Peach, the Creative Director of Our True Roots. He told about the mission and vision of Our True Roots, as well as about the star of the show: the tigernut. You can hear my interview with James by clicking on the play button below.