WATER CHESTNUT GROWING GUIDE
How To Grow Water Chestnuts in Mud or Soil:
Water Chestnut plants are easy to grow, but they must stay wet at all times. Not only can they be grown in soil, soil is what they should be sprouted in initially. Once the ‘snorkel shoots’ are tall enough to stick out of water they get planted in, they can be planted in just about anything that stays really, really wet. Two years ago most of the plants & bulbs here were successfully grown in 1020 flat trays with perlite + vermiculite. One flat was as soil which grew more and more swamp muck like as the months went on. These trays had no holes in them for drainage.
Last year, during Spring, most of them were grown in the green window planter containers in the photos. The substrate was a mixture of cocopeat, perlite and vermiculite. The planters had a couple 1″ holes each punched open in their bottoms. They did fine until July getting full sun most of the day and the same watering all the little 3″ pots were getting down that nursery table, but once peak summer started to hit, here in coastal central Florida, one day they were all brown all of the sudden.
There’s a lot of ways they can be grown successfully as long as you stick to the insights herein. They can be grown in full soil but it cannot dry out. Check around online for example setups, and try hardware stores for shallow poly tubs. Rubbermaid style bins can be used but they often don’t have UV stabilized plastic. If they don’t you’ll want to pre-coat them real well with some plastic primer, and then some good heavy duty gloss or UV stabilized clearcoat otherwise they tubs will likely crumble to bits in a year or two. If you paint down into the inside of the bins down past the eventual water level there could be concerns about residue leakage so this is not recommended.
They can also be kept in 5 gallon buckets, which last at least a couple years in the Florida sun. Fill them half way with your choice of substrate and fill the soil level with water, but make sure their snorkel shoots are sticking up and out while planting. If you could manage to set them where rainwater rushes off of your roof without washing them out you should be able to have them nearly maintenance free. One solution could be to drill a ring of large holes a few inches down from the top of the bucket so that when water rushes in it it might drain out without all the innards flowing out over the top. If you’re going to place it under a gutter downspout it will surely take some tinkering,especially here in Florida where when it rains it seriously pours. The first thing I’d try would be to silicone screen around the holes or something to that effect, to help keep the substrate in there in case of a huge downpour. If you’re only placing it under a roofs edge it might not need anything more than a ring of medium holes, but depending on where you live perhaps.
How To Grow Water Chestnuts In Ponds or Aquaponics:
Water Chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) plants are about as ideal for Aquaponics as any plant ever could be, but there’s a very important thing to understand so your bulbs don’t rot first. In the photo slideshow you’ll see a big crate of bulbs. Those were in the tanks fully submerged for months without ever sprouting leaves. Many others had already rotted completely during this period. Roughly only enough made it to planthood to fill that one 15 gallon aquarium. It’s best to think of the hollow round leaves as snorkels, and without them the bulbs drown and get all soggy and become a rotten stinky mess. It’s important the germplasm tops get plenty of oxygen.
If your new bulbs are intended for full water submersion in ponds or Aquaponics you must sprout them first. This is easy to do and can be done many ways.
The bucket photo shows a method that was tried here recently tried that worked perfect, and fast. It seems the tall shape and the lack of side holes ant any point is really beneficial. The bucket has a big crack across the bottom of it. Bulbs are layered from the bottom up between layers of oak leaves, then recycled potting soil with lots of fine vermiculite added to it and then another layer of oak leaves. On days it doesn’t rain, a couple gallons of rainwater per day are poured across the top. It’s recommended that you only drill a couple 1/4″ holes in the bottom of the bucket so it doesn’t immediately drain out. But whatever you do, make sure they can breath good and stay plenty wet. During the first bucket test, after a couple days all of the top layer bulbs were pushing up green. A couple days later some were removed and it turned out then that some of the green tips were already from layers below. The bucket was getting a few hours a day of direct springtime sun. Once the snorkel shoots are long enough to break the surface and breath they can be added to the tanks with the bulb completely submerged under the water.
If you don’t intend to grow Tilapia you can still effectively enact a sort of aquaponics effect by adding in Gold or other types of fish. The fish fed the plants, and odds are mosquito larvae will quickly become a concern anyhow. Some small fish that eat mosquito larvae include Gold Fish, Eastern Mosquitofish, Killifish, Pigmy Sunfish, Siamese Fighting Fish, Guppy, American Flagfish, and various other minnows and so on. Fish can also help keep nuisance macro algaes at bay.
The small, rounded corms have a crisp white flesh and can be eaten raw, slightly boiled, or grilled, and are often pickled or tinned. They are a popular ingredient in Chinese dishes. In China, they are most often eaten raw, sometimes sweetened. They can also be ground into a flour form used for making water chestnut cake, which is common as part of dim sum cuisine. They are unusual among vegetables for remaining crisp even after being cooked or canned, because their cell walls are cross-linked and strengthened by certain phenolic compounds, like oligomers of ferulic acid. This property is shared by other vegetables that remain crisp in this manner, including the tiger nut and lotus root. The corms are rich in carbohydrates (about 90 percent by dry weight), especially starch (about 60 percent by dry weight), and are also a good source of dietary fiber, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and manganese. If eaten uncooked, the surface of the plants can transmit Fasciolopsiasis.
Eleocharis equisetina, Eleocharis indica, Eleocharis plantaginea, Eleocharis plantaginoides, Eleocharis tuberosa, Eleocharis tumida, Chinese Water Caltrop (Trapa natans)
The water caltrop, which is also referred to by the same name, is unrelated and often confused with the water chestnut.