Although cultivated by humans, the tigernut, Cyperus esculentus L., is also to be found growing wild. Considered a warm-climate plant, it is found in tropical or warm zones throughout the world, although is has also been located in cold regions, such as Alaska (Holm et Al, 1977).
Georg Kükenthal, a German botanist who dedicated his life to the study of plants belonging to the Carex genus, distinguished up to eight different botanical varieties of Cyperus esculentus L. Nowadays, however, only four wild varieties (esculentus, leptostachyus, macrostachyus and hermanii) and one cultivated variety, sativus, are recognised. There are, therefore, two groups of plants with a similar morphology and which are known by the same name, although their behaviour is very different: one is a crop and the other is an adventitious flora.
Tigernuts have been cultivated by man for many centuries, with evidence of the same having been found in the sarcophagus and tombs of the early Egyptian dynasties, leading us to believe that they were highly-appreciated in an age in which people buried their dead with belongings that where meant to provide enjoyment in the after-life.
Cultivation of the plant was extended from Egypt through North Africa, before reaching the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily with the influx of Islamic culture during the Middle Ages (13th century). Islamic culture was also responsible for the expansion of the cultivation of tigernuts in the Mediterranean areas of the Valencia Region, as well as for the introduction of revolutionary techniques that were, at the time, far ahead of those employed in the agricultural sector.