All About the Water Chestnut

Water chestnuts, also known as Chinese water chestnuts, are vegetables and not nuts.

Description of the Fruit

Water chestnuts are grass-like sedges that are native to Asia, tropical Africa, Australia, and various islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Many cultures grow them to enjoy the edible corms. These aquatic vegetables grow underwater and in the mud. The corms are small and rounded with white flesh.

Changes to the Fruit Over Time

In some areas, including New York, water chestnuts are an invasive species. It arrived in the Northeast during the late 1800s and currently clogs many waterways in the area.

Description of Taste

You can eat the white corms of the water chestnut raw, grilled, or lightly boiled. They are also easy to find tinned or pickled. They are most common in Chinese dishes, where they are frequently eaten raw but occasionally sweetened. Remarkably, water chestnuts stay crispy even after cooking. Water chestnuts taste slightly sweet with a crunch. Their flavor is mild and nutty, easily overpowered by other flavors in a dish.

Is It Used in Desserts?

Water chestnuts are usually part of a range of dishes, both main meals and desserts. You can make a water chestnut egg dessert using water chestnut powder and whole water chestnuts, among other ingredients. Alternatively, you can try a cake made with water chestnuts.

Pop Culture References

Water chestnuts are touted as a health food due to their high nutritional yet low-calorie content, making them a staple for many diets. They are also praised for containing high levels of antioxidants and their potential ability to reduce heart disease risk and high blood pressure.

Other Uses

In Australia’s Northern Territory, magpie geese eat water chestnuts during the dry season so they can put on fat. During the wet season, these geese use them for building floating nests.