This week I ordered online a chinese water chestnut plant. The chinese water chestnut belongs to the family of grass-like pond or wetland plants; Cyperaceae. In asia it is cultivated in the same way as paddy rice. I think it will be a wonderful addition to the yardsteads edible garden. The corm, which resembles a bulb grows underground and is the part of the plant that is harvested and most often eaten in asian stir-fry. This should be an excellent addition to the edible bamboo plants we already have planted on our property.
In the U.S. chinese water chestnut is most often imported in cans but is sometimes imported frozen. The largest source of imports come from China, followed by Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the late 1980's, researchers from the University of Florida studied the chinese water chestnut as a possible plant for production in Florida. A single plant can yield 5 lbs or .......
2.3 kg per season. Despite it's introduction to Florida approximately 60 years ago, it still has not made a lot of progress towards establishment as a viable industry. The research at U.F. suggested that this may be due to the difficulties in planting, harvesting and preparing the product for market in Florida.
Since a single plant (yielding up to 5lbs of water chestnut) can be grown in a water tight container or in a pond, this plant makes an excellent addition to the garden of those interested in edible landscaping. From the many sources available on line, I have found that the chinese water chestnut seems to grow best in a sandy loam or sand and cow manure/compost mixture spread to about 8 inches deep in a water tight container. Planting depths seem to range between 3-8 inches deep. I will probably plant around 3 inches deep because the tub I have is only 6 inches deep. After planting the soil should be completely soaked and excess water run-off. When the reeds grow to about 2 ft high, the container should be flooded to about 3-4 inches above the soil. This depth should be maintained with very little variation until the reeds yellow and begin to wither. Then the water should be drained and the container left for a few weeks to allow skin on the culms to harden. In order to have good production, plants need at least 200 frost-free days to grow and mature. When plants are harvested, culms can be saved for next year's plants and crops.
Do not mistake the chinese water chestnut for the european water chestnut, which is an invasive species in much of the eastern U.S. It belongs to the Trapacea family and has a seed or nut (fruit) that is harvested. It is sometimes eaten in India as a survival plant when times are hard. Because of it's invasive qualities it is ilegal to import , distribute or transport in South Carolina and Florida.
We will add pictures and comments in the forum as soon as we receive, plant and begin to grow our chinese water chestnuts. Please stay tuned and feel free to add any advice or information in the forum you may have on growing this particular plant.