Have you ever wondered if water chestnuts are actually nuts? Well…the answer is simple. No. The water chestnut is an aquatic vegetable from the sedge family known as Cyperaeae (don't ask me to pronounce that) and it thrives in boggy or aquatic places. They are underground stem enlargements called corms or tubers, and the plants have to be dug up to harvest the corms. The corms have a brown-colored outside skin and flattened shape similar to that of a chestnut, and the white flesh is sweet and nutty-flavored. The water chestnut has a crunchy texture even after being cooked.
Medicinal Properties according to Chinese Medicine
The water chestnut has cooling properties and its flavor is sweet and bland. It clears heat from the body, transforms phlegm, engenders fluids, and disinhibits urination. The types of conditions the water chestnut treats include:
Cooking with Water Chestnuts
Water chestnuts are very versatile and can be used in appetizers, soups, salads, stir-fry, and even in desserts. I have used chopped water chestnuts in my Polynesian meatball recipe to give the meatball an extra crunch. Because of its cooling properties, water chestnuts help to balance the warming properties of spicy dishes such as a stir-fry. Because of its bland flavor, it is usually combined with more flavorful foods and spices.
Water Chestnuts can be purchased canned or fresh. If you purchase them fresh, make sure they are firm with no soft spots and the skin is smooth. Peel the outer skin with a knife before using. They will keep up to one week in the refrigerator covered in water. Be sure to change the water daily.
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