On a recent stroll through Gansevoort Market in New York City, a vendor selling Tiger Nuts caught my eyes and ears. The hawker was extolling the high fiber content of his tiny little withered snacks – Organic Gemini Tiger Nuts – which turns out aren’t nuts at all.
I was intrigued by these tigernuts, which look a little like dried garbanzo beans. They pack an impressive 10 grams of naturally occurring, intact fiber in a 1 oz 120-calorie serving.
So what exactly is a tigernut? The botanical name is Cyperus esculentus – and the use of “nut” in the name is misleading. Tiger nuts aren’t nuts, but rather, tubers that grow underground in many parts of the world.
Tigernuts are eaten roasted and salted as a snack in West Africa, and they can be used as one of the bases for the “milk” in the variety of horchata popular in Spain.
The brand of tigernuts that I tried – Organic Gemini’s – were chewy, nutty in flavor, and definitely felt full of roughage. They had a neither sweet nor savory flavor, but were actually quite bland. Not bland in a bad way… just lacking any real, overpowering flavor profile. I can’t say I would find myself binge snacking on tigernuts anytime soon, but they are a very satiating and certainly unique snack.
Because tigernuts are virtually unknown in the US, the USDA Nutrient Database doesn’t list their nutrition information; however, other analyses of the tuber’s nutrition content do indeed indicate that it is a very high fiber food. In addition to 10 g fiber per 120 calorie serving, tigernuts contain iron (10% daily value per serving) as well as 7% DV for magnesium and zinc, and 6% for potassium. They are gluten free and contain prebiotics which may be beneficial for proliferation of good gut bacteria.
In researching tigernuts, I came across some interesting applications of this high fiber tuber in the processed food supply. One study looked at the nutritional effect of adding high fiber tigernuts to chorizo (a fiber-free food) while another analyzed its addition to pork burgers.
While I think I’ll stick to my fiber free meat products for now, I do have to say I’m a fan of these tiny tubers and I hope to see more of them in the fiber friendly marketplace soon.