Despite being called chestnuts, water chestnuts are not nuts at all. They are aquatic tuber vegetables that grow in marshes, ponds, paddy fields and shallow lakes. Water chestnuts are native to Southeast Asia, Southern China, Taiwan, Australia, Africa and many islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Water chestnuts are harvested when the corm, or bulb, turns a dark brown color. They have a crisp, white flesh that can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Water chestnuts are a common delicacy in Asian countries. They are highly versatile and can be enjoyed raw, boiled, fried, grilled, pickled or candied. For example, water chestnuts are often peeled and either diced, sliced or grated into dishes such as stir-fries, omelets, chop suey, curries and salads, among others.
Water chestnuts can also be enjoyed fresh after washing and peeling, as they have a crispy, sweet, apple-like flesh. Interestingly, the flesh continues to stay crisp even after boiling or frying. Some people choose to use dried and ground water chestnut as a flour alternative. This is because water chestnuts are high in starch, which makes them a great thickener.
Water chestnuts are linked to several health benefits. Very nutritious yet low in calories, they contain high amounts of fiber, potassium, manganese, copper, vitamin B6 and riboflavin. They contain high amounts of disease-fighting antioxidants and may help lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Also they promote weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer with fewer calories.