Eleocharis dulcis

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For Trapa natans, see Water caltrop.
Chinese water chestnut
Eleocharis dulcis Blanco1.15.jpg
illustration circa 1880[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Cyperaceae
Genus: Eleocharis
Species: E. dulcis
Binomial name
Eleocharis dulcis
(Burm.f.) Trin. ex Hensch.
  • E. equisetina
  • E. indica
  • E. plantaginea,
  • E. plantaginoides
  • E. tuberosa
  • E. tumida
  • and several more
Corm of Eleocharis dulcis
Water chestnuts, chinese, (matai), raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 406 kJ (97 kcal)
23.94 g
Sugars 4.8 g
Dietary fiber 3 g
0.1 g
1.4 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.14 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.2 mg
Niacin (B3)
1 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.479 mg
Vitamin B6
0.328 mg
Folate (B9)
16 μg
Vitamin C
4 mg
Vitamin E
1.2 mg
22 mg
0.331 mg
63 mg
584 mg
0.5 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The Chinese water chestnut or water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) is a grass-like sedge native to Asia (China, Japan, India, Philippines, etc.), Australia, tropical Africa, and various islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.[2] It is grown in many countries for its edible corms.[3]

The water chestnut is not a nut at all, but an aquatic vegetable that grows in marshes, under water, in the mud. It has stem-like, tubular green leaves that grow to about 1.5 m. The water caltrop, which also is referred to by the same name, is unrelated and often confused with the water chestnut.

The small, rounded corms have a crisp, white flesh and may be eaten raw, slightly boiled, or grilled, and often are pickled or tinned. They are a popular ingredient in Chinese dishes. In China, they are most often eaten raw, sometimes sweetened. They also may 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, such as oligomers of ferulic acid.[4] This property is shared by other vegetables that remain crisp in this manner, including the tiger nut and lotus root.[5]

The corms are rich in carbohydrates (about 90% by dry weight), especially starch (about 60% by dry weight), and are also a good source of dietary fiber, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and manganese.[6]

If eaten uncooked, potentially, the surface of the plants may transmit fasciolopsiasis.[7]


Raw water chestnuts are slightly sweet and very crunchy. Boiled water chestnuts have a firm and slightly crunchy texture, with a very mild and slightly nutty flavor that may easily be overpowered by seasonings or sauces with which the water chestnut is served or cooked. They often are combined with bamboo shoots, coriander, ginger, sesame oil, and snow peas. Steamed or sauteed vegetable medleys frequently contain water chestnuts. They often are used in noodle or rice dishes.[8]


The Chinese water chestnut (traditional Chinese: 荸薺; simplified Chinese: 荸荠; hanyu pinyin: bíqi, 馬蹄; pinyin:mǎtí) is native to China and is cultivated widely in flooded paddy fields in southern China and parts of the Philippines, where it is called apulid. In Vietnam, it is called củ mã thầy (in the north) and củ năng (in the south) and is the main ingredient of bánh củ năng hấp, chè mã thầy. In Thailand, it is called somwang (สมหวัง) and it often is used in a dessert named tabtim krob (ทับทิมกรอบ). In India, it is known commonly as singhada, shingada, or singoda.


  1. ^ Flora de Filipinas [...] Gran edicion [...] [Atlas I]. Date=1880-1883? Author=Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.)
  2. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. apps.kew.org
  3. ^ Flora of China, Vol. 23 Page 191, 荸荠 bi qi, Eleocharis dulcis (N. L. Burman) Trinius ex Henschel, Vita Rumphii. 186. 1833. efloras.org
  4. ^ Phenolics and phenolic-polysaccharide linkages in Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) cell walls. Grassby Terri, Doctoral thesis, 2008, University of East Anglia (link)
  5. ^ McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking (Revised Edition). Scribner. p. 308. ISBN 0-684-80001-2. 
  6. ^ "Waterchestnuts, chinese, (matai), raw". NutritionData.com. CondéNet, Inc. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  7. ^ Bhatti, H. S.; Malla, N; Mahajan, R. C.; Sehgal, R (2000). "Fasciolopslasis--a re-emerging infection in Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh)". Indian journal of pathology & microbiology. 43 (1): 73–6. PMID 12583425. 
  8. ^ Green, Aliza (2004). Field Guide to Produce. Quirk Productions. p. 284. ISBN 1-931686-80-7. 

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