The Tigernut or Cyperus Esculentus Lativum is a tuber fruit of the plant with the same name. From ancient Egypt, it has been consumed for its great regenerative and healing properties. At first sight, it has a rough and rounded form and brown colour, which results from the fact that it stays underground until it is being harvested.
As for the plant, this is characterized by extremely green leaves. In addition to Spain, its cultivation is circumscribed to many countries in Africa, such as Togo, Mali or Nigeria. It is mainly because, in these places, sandy soils and soft climates are more easily found, something essential for an excellent crop.
Tigernuts Traders has extensive areas of Tigernuts farms in Spain. On these farms we grow Tigernuts of the highest quality and also in organic certified quality.
Growing and harvesting
It is not surprising that some areas in Spain (such as Valencia, but also other places in southern Spain), with their Mediterranean climate and the quality of the land, have been one of the main producers of Tigernuts. The tubers should be dried during the months of September and October, after they have been planted at the end of April. In November and December begins the harvesting period.
From December to March, the Tigernuts are finally harvested. The process must be carried out carefully to avoid damage of the fragile tuber. They should then be washed with water to remove possible dirt and stones. Further 3 months, follows a strict control of temperature and humidity.
To achieve a uniform drying, it is mandatory to keep the Tigernuts moving constantly. Regarding the subsequent selection, only the high quality Tigernuts will be chosen, since smaller or damaged ones will be immediately excluded.
Growing cycle: seeding
The Tigernuts crop is almost an annual crop, since its total duration is approximately 7/8 months. The planting of the tuber must be carried out during the months of April / May. It has many peculiarities that we explain below.
- If we aim to obtain a quality production, it can only be made in soils with special characteristics. The soils suitable for growing Tigernuts must be loose, given that the harvesting must be done by sifting a soil thickness of 15-20 cm deep where the tuber is found and if it is sifted in strong soils, the tuber comes out quite dirty, covered by soil, which significantly increases the cost of washing. In addition, in loose, sandy loam soils is where the Tigernut acquires a higher quality, sweeter and more intense flavour, thinner skin, absence of the depreciating roots (furry Tigernut) and larger and a more uniform size.
- It needs high water intake throughout the entire cycle, which can only be supplied by irrigation. Sufficient soil moisture stimulates tuberisation, encourages rooting and the formation of basal bulbs and rhizomes. It is worth highlighting that on a hectare surface and in a depth of 20-30 cm of soil there are about 300-400.000 plants that give rise to 20-30 million tubers, which require a continuous and sufficient humidity in the ground.
- In the vegetative cycle of the Tigernut there are times when the water supply must be perfectly regulated by irrigation. One of them is the first moment of the vegetative cycle of the plant, thus, the first crop irrigation, in the sowing seasoning, must occur when the plant is at least 15-20 cm high, that is, has about 10-12 leaves (the plant reaches this development within 25-30 days after planting). If done earlier, the soil starts compacting, the plant turns yellow and starts rooting inadequately. On the other hand, if it is delayed, the growth is attenuated, although the further development of the plants is not affected. The last irrigations should be delayed until the plant has parched the foliage, and should be abundant to encourage the growth of the tuber. If the plants start to bend above the soil (July), the irrigations should be spread as far as 20-30 days to get the stems strengthen and offer greater resistance to bending. Given the type of soil of your growing area (sandy loam), the Tigernut requires a continuous irrigation, with very short intervals to maintain the seasoning.
Growing cycle: harvesting
Harvesting takes place during the months of November and January. To be able to carry it out, the plant must be completely parched and dry. This process is done mechanically. The combine harvester consists of a cutting bar of the width of two ridges. This cuts the earth that is crumbled by a rod mill and places it in a drum screener that separates the earth from the Tigernut. The Tigernuts come out from the rear part together with the remains of the plant, stones, etc. These are then transported by a conveyor to the hopper of the tractor.
Postharvest treatments: washing
After harvesting, the crop must be washed. During this process, the Tigernuts lose their roots and their skin is cleaned, while the faulty tubers are removed.
Tigernuts from the field are deposited onto the surface of the place they are going to be washed at. With the blade of the tractor they are placed in a hopper which discharges the crop onto a conveyor belt that opens to a drum-sieve where the earth is separated from the rest of the material. From this drum the material goes into a second drum formed of two concentric elements that separate straw and thick stones.
A third drum removes the hair/root of the Tigernuts and a shower placed in the central shaft is continuously soaking them. Then they pass through gutters with different water exits and here the Tigernuts are separated from gravel and finally they are cleaned.
Postharvest treatments: drying and sorting
Once cleaned, the Tigernuts should lose moisture and this happens through the drying process. During this process, the moisture level drops from 50% to 11%. The drying process, which usually lasts 3 months, is done in special attics used for drying. It is done slowly and carefully, to get the Tigernuts acquire their peculiar characteristics.
During this process the tubers are continuously moved to achieve a uniform drying. The tubers are arranged in layers of 10-20 cm and they must be moved twice a day, reducing this frequency as they start losing moisture.
Once dried, they are cleaned and sorted to separate the Tigernuts from impurities, faulty or small Tigernuts. These are known as remains. Later, a further manual selection is made by removing the damaged tubers and some impurities that might have remained. At this point, the Tigernuts are packed in bags and are ready to be used for different applications.