“You’re Not Going To Put Those Ugly Things In The Spinach Dip…Are You?”

I believe my husband makes the best spinach dip in the world.

It’s spinach-y, crunchy, slightly chewy, slightly sweet and nutty, and so darned good I can (and do) make a meal out of it.

And to answer the question in the post title …

Yes, he does put those ugly things in his spinach dip.

But – those things don’t look like those things when he puts them in the dip.

Before that, they look like this:

Described as a “grass-like sedge,” my researched introduced me to Eleocharis dulcis, native to Asia, tropical Africa, and Oceania. 

How does this “grass-like” foreign plant fit into my hub’s spinach dip?

For that, let’s dig a bit deeper.

When we do, we see the whole plant:

Those dark, round things at the bottom of the plant are called “corms”:

“A corm, bulbo-tuber, or bulbotuber is a short, vertical, swollen underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ that some plants use to survive winter or other adverse conditions such as summer drought and heat.”

Corms:  That’s what we’re after.

Harvest the plant, including the roots, and voila – corms:

OK, we have the corms in hand – now what?

We rename them…but what?

Here are some clues:

The corms are classified as vegetables; specifically, “aquatic tuber vegetables.”

They’re edible and, according to various articles, they’re good for you:

  • High in fiber, low in calories, and contain no fat.
  • A source of fiber, protein, potassium, manganese, copper, Vitamin B6 and riboflavin.
  • Some evidence suggests that consuming these could help reduce free radicals in the body and lower blood pressure, among other benefits.

So what the heck is this dark, ugly, bulbous-looking, healthy-for-you corm-thing?

It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s this:

Water chestnuts!

Just peel off the dark ugly…

And eat them raw, boiled, grilled, fried, roasted, candied, grated, pickled, or straight from the can.

You can add them to all sorts of dishes; when I googled “water chestnut recipes” I got 16 million+ results.

So, to correct a commonly held (including me) misconception: 

Water chestnuts are not nuts.

How did they get that name?

This article had as reasonable an explanation as any:

“The name ‘water chestnut’ comes from the fact that it resembles a chestnut in shape and coloring – papery brown skin over white flesh.”

And there is a resemblance:

I couldn’t discover who gave water chestnuts that America moniker, but I did learn that most water chestnuts aren’t American grown:

“…water chestnuts are primarily cultivated in China and imported to the United States and other countries.  Rarely have attempts been made to cultivate in the U.S.; however, it has been tried in Florida, California, and Hawaii with limited commercial success.”

I also learned that we in the U.S. love our water chestnuts:  We’re the largest importer of water chestnuts in the world, with 570.06M metric tons in 2021, valued at $759 million.

I suspect that many people – including me – were introduced to water chestnuts this way:

Asian food.

How did water chestnuts transition from Chinese food to 16 million+ recipes including bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, water chestnut cake, water chestnut soup, candied water chestnuts, water chestnut salad, and my beloved’s beloved spinach dip?

I don’t know.

But let’s have some spinach dip while we ponder this:

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