Water caltrops look like devil’s horns. They look like bats on the wing. Their horn-like shape has earned them the nicknames “Devil’s pod” or “buffalo nuts,” and they are sometimes called “water chestnuts” due to their taste. They are now in season.
Most of the water caltrops in Taiwan are grown in Tainan’s Guantian District. This area has about 380 hectares of farmland in which to grow the crop, and you can see large water caltrop fields everywhere, with stalls selling just-boiled devil’s pods along the roads. Visitors to this year’s Guantian Water Caltrop Festival were surprised to learn that the buffalo nuts actually grow in water.
The roots of the water caltrop plants extend down into the soil, and their stems break the surface of the water, with triangular leaves floating on the surface. They can be harvested from mid-September to November each year. Most of water caltrop farmers in Taiwan start growing the crop in May, after they have brought in the first rice harvest.
Photo: Lee Chieh-pin and Wang Mei-chun , Liberty Times
Water caltrops grow best in hot, humid climates with plenty of sunshine. As they bear fruit in temperatures of between 25 and 36 degrees Celsius, they thrive in southern Taiwan, and are grown predominantly in Tainan’s Guantian District and Kaohsiung’s Renwu District.
The flesh of water caltrops is delicious and nutritious, its taste somewhat reminiscent of chestnuts. Devil’s pods can be eaten boiled or used in cooking, such as in buffalo nut and pork rib soup and three-cup chicken with water caltrops, to name but a few popular dishes.
(Liberty Times, translated by Lin Lee-kai)
Photo: Yang Chin-cheng, Liberty Times
Photo: Yang Chin-cheng, Liberty Times
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