Chinese Water Chestnuts
$8.99 for 3 starter plants. Available at the online store for delivery.
Fresh corms can be peeled and eaten like a fruit. Their sweet, crisp nutty flavor resembles coconut, apple and some say macadamia nuts. Even when cooked, the chestnuts remain crisp, which has been a feature highly favored for the texture effect of Chinese dishes. The sweet nutty flavor is popular with children, in fact the plant is an ideal one to encourage children to plant, watch grow and produce a treat. Once you have them fresh, you'll never go back to canned or frozen. A very unique addition to any water garden or water container planter.
Water chestnuts are easy to grow and here in zone 10 they can produce fruit year round. They can be grown in just about any container that holds water. They spread rapidly from runners and just 1 or 2 plants will fill an area very fast. If left to mature the tops will dye back and the entire container can be dumped and the corms can be hosed off, make sure you save some for the next planting, I just use existing rooted growing runners to start the new planting. They also can be harvested at any growth stage for a steady supply by feeling around in the dirt for large corms and just pulling them out, I actually think this causes the plant to produce even more corms, in any case it does no harm to the crop. Water chestnut were once considered for a commercial crop here in S. Florida, but because of the cost of the manual harvesting they couldn't compete against the imports from low labor cost countries.
I grow them in cement mixing trays, very inexpensive, very tough and the black rim will blend in with your garden if you bury them at ground lever. With a soil mix of 50% compost and 50% peat moss it is very easy to dig into the soil to remove corms at any stage. I only start 1 plant per tray, which holds a half bag of compost and an equal amount of peat moss with about an inch and a half for water above the soil. After growing them last year it has become apparent that they do not have blooms of any type, at least not the first year. I got them in a little late last year so it may be a different story this year. Information on them is rather hard to find. I'm sure they are considered an invasive weed in some parts of the world. With the way they grow I can see that they would take over a wetland area very fast. I had to look for some time to get my starts.
If you are interested in giving this easy to grow and very rewarding plant a try, we offer them at $8.99 per 3 plants, just 1 or 2 is all you'll need for a small container of 2x3 feet. These are available at the online store for delivery. All our plants are from established runners and are removed the day you purchase them, this gives you a jump over starting corms. Corms are a lot more hassle to start than runners, they tend to want to float and turn upside down constantly, usually they just end up getting water logged and rotting, I don't know if this is due to them being to dry or if that's just the way it is. I got some corms from China town and I never got 1 to grow, my plants here were started from runners, actually just from root cuttings, no tops were included. If I were going to try with corms again I would just start them in a small container that I could watch very close and then pull the runners to replant as they come up, much like planting rice. After the first year you will always have runners to transplant if you don't let the soil dry out.
Actually they don't produce the corms as one might expect. By the looks of the plant I had anticipated that they would grow like onions, one corm at the bottom of each plant, but instead they grow more like a potato, in that the runners or roots travel in an outward pattern from the plant and multiple corms grow every inch or so along the roots. There seems to be an abundance of corms along the container edges or perhaps all the roots just pile up there. Not all corms produce top growth at this time but when corms are pulled up for use during the growing season which is all year here, the root is broken and the unattached rooted corms (you'll never find them all) grow into a new plant, starting the entire growth pattern over, with the original plant still producing more corms on new roots.
This is the reason that not many plants are needed for a growing area, the roots fill in every available space and produce corms, sometimes hundreds from a single plant. Not only that but I found no difference in transplanting a large growing corm over a small runner in either the size of the new corms or the time required for them to produce more corms. One of the heaviest producing plants for its size that I have ever worked with. Once you try these you will always have these no care producer growing off in a corner somewhere out of the way keeping you in fresh water chestnuts all year, aren't we lucky to be living in a zone so productive for this wonder.
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