Though chufa, also named tiger nut, is still a fairly new superfood on the health-food scene, Nordic Chufa hopes that it will become just as popular and well known as quinoa.
Maria José Perez and Liz Christiansen founded Nordic Chufa in 2013 with the mission of bringing organic chufa to the Danish market. Now, three years later, Nordic Chufa’s products are available in most health food stores around the country. And Maria José hopes that the word about chufa will keep on spreading and that chufa will go from trendy, to mainstream.
Just like quinoa, chufa is an ancient food, which has been known and cultivated for thousands of years. Whereas quinoa is a grain that originates from South America, chufa is a tuber, which comes from the Mediterranean and Northern Africa.
Chufa is also gluten free and has a high nutrient profile which exceeds that found in most other tubers. It is rich in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, contains 5 times as much iron as beets, and has almost twice as much potassium as coconut water. Furthermore chufa is rich in magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc and vitamin E. It also holds an exceptional high content of fiber, which has been shown to protect against several lifestyle diseases. According to the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (2012), a high fiber diet can help protect against cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and is also linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and lower body weight.
While people living in the Mediterranean region have long known about its health benefits, it’s only a few years ago that chufa was discovered by the northwestern part of the world.
In 2013, the same year as Nordic Chufa was founded, Organic Gemini was the first to introduce organic chufa and chufa products to the US market. (See story in the Summer 2015 edition of O.W.N.)
Just as quinoa can be used in many different ways, so too can chufa. Products include chufa flour, granola, and horchata, a vegetable milky drink made with chufa, water and sweetener. In Spain, horchata is a popular drink. According to Valenchiainternationale.com, Valencia alone is estimated to produce around 50 million tons of horchata each year.
Both Nordic Chufa and Organic Gemini import their chufa products from Valencia, where it is sent after being harvested in Niger, Africa.
Maria José and Liz both stumbled upon chufa in Spain many years ago, but it wasn’t until they discovered the many health benefits of the tuber, that they got the idea to bring chufa and horchata to Denmark.
“I wish that Chufa will come to stay… and that people will learn how to use it, and keep using it for the rest of their lives, ”said Maria José. “I would like chufa to become just as normal as quinoa is today. Fifteen years ago no one knew about quinoa, but today most people know what quinoa is,” she continued.
For this to happen, she hopes that more Danish companies will start using chufa in their products. So far only Aurion, a danish organic and biodynamic bakery , has used chufa in their organic bread.
This has been one of the biggest challenges for Nordic Chufa. Though the public is very positive about chufa, they hope companies respond to consumer interest and begin using chufa in more of their products.
Whether or not chufa becomes as mainstream and popular as quinoa, it is yet for the future to show. Considering its high nutrient profile and many uses, there’s reason to believe it’s on the right course.
Nordic Chufa will be attending the regional health expo in Vejle in Denmark, and in the fall they will be at the international Nordic Food Fair in Malmö.