Water Chestnuts are a type of water plant that grows in warm climates. They have leaves with three leaflets and a flower stalk. These plants can reach up to 1 meter tall and 2 meters wide. The seeds are white or yellowish, oval shaped, and about 0.5 mm long when they’re still alive but become rounder as they mature. The seed pods contain many tiny seeds which can be eaten raw or cooked into salads or soups.
The water chestnut tree is native to North America from Canada south through much of the eastern United States and into Mexico. The species is now found only in very small areas in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. There are no known natural populations remaining in Texas.
Water chestnuts are not edible but their seeds can be used as a source of food for birds and other animals such as squirrels. When the seeds are cracked open, they release a sweet liquid called sap. The sap contains a large amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat. It’s high sugar content makes it one of the most popular foods for wildlife feeders.
Water chestnuts can be harvested at any time during their life cycle. Young trees produce young leaves that can be picked before they turn brown and shrivel up into useless husks, while older trees produce fruit that ripens after several years of growth.
The fruit that the water chestnut tree produces is roughly in the shape of a rugby ball. The husk of the fruit is green and can reach up to 2 inches thick. Underneath the husk is the hard shell that surrounds each of the seeds. Once this shell has been removed, it reveals a shiny brown seed that can be eaten.
Asian people used the fruit of the water chestnut as part of their diets for centuries.
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