Saturday, March 22, 2014

Water Chestnuts

At the moment I have Water Chestnuts Eleocharis dulcis growing in an old bath tub (along with Arrowhead or Duck Potato), in a fibreglass fake ceramic pond, in an old waste paper bin and in a small fish tank (sans fish). The ones in the fish tank are there to show how the chestnut corms form in autumn, at least that was the idea in spring and it seems to have worked. Through the glass you can see small corms beginning to swell and one is already quite large.

Water Chestnuts are easy to grow and always seem to form here in Melbourne without any problems. I have met quite a few people who have tried to grow them with only limited success and the reason for failure is always the same on further investigation: they've been grown in the shade. This doesn't work, Water Chestnuts definitely need full sun. They are worth it though aesthetically and for the crunchy corms. Through the growing season the tall bright green grass-like stems look great and even as they brown off they look good before the foliage collapses and they turn to brown mush. From late autumn they are ready to harvest although they are not really super sweet until mid-June through to July. At this point they honestly taste of coconut. In fact, they're quite good as a raw snack as well as for cooking in stir fries. Peeling them is a bit of a hassle but worth it. For some people pulling them out of a muddy old bath or pot on a cold winter's day might not be fun either but I like being a grub so it's a seasonal delight. The harvest pics below are from last year. Grown in a 20cm diameter small pot one Water Chestnut from the previous season grew 20 new ones. In larger containers or ponds the productivity is probably higher.


  1. Thanks for this, I'm encouraged by your post to try to grow some in my backyard in Melbourne too. Can they be planted now (close to winter), or should I wait til spring?

    1. You can plant them now (if they are fresh) and they will pop up in mid to late spring. They're quite happy to sit in potting mix or soil for a few months before the weather warms up. Otherwise buy some fresh ones from a company like Green Harvest in July or August and plant them then.