Euryale ferox (also known as fox nut, foxnut, makhana, or gorgon plant) is the only species in the genus Euryale. It is a flowering plant classified in the water lily family. The plant produces starchy white seeds, and the seeds are edible. The plant is cultivated for its seeds in lowland ponds in India, China, and Japan. The Chinese have cultivated the plant for over 3000 years. More than 96,000 hectares of Bihar, India, were set aside for cultivation of Euryale in 1990-1991. The plant does best in locations with hot, dry summers and cold winters. Seeds are collected in the late summer and early autumn, and may be eaten raw or cooked. In India, particularly in the northern and western parts of the country, Euryale ferox seeds are often roasted or fried, which causes them to pop like popcorn.
The popped seeds of Makhana, roasted and eaten as well as used in preparation of various kinds of delicious sweets and recipes. It contains 9.7% easily digestible protein, 76% carbohydrate, 12.8% moisture, 0.1% fat, 0.5% total minerals, 0.9% phosphorus & 1.4%mg fe/100gm. It also contains useful medicinal properties.
The seeds of foxnut are used in ayurvedic preparations. Fox nut alleviates vata and pitta dosha. It strengthens the heart and is very useful in anemia. Makhana increases quality and quantity of semen, prevents premature ejaculation, increases libido and helps in female infertility. It is an important ingredient of herbal preparations used for erectile dysfunction. It strengthens body and increases energy level. Because of its aphrodisiac properties it is grouped under vrishyadi varga. The herbs under this group are used in vajikarana therapy.
It is very popular as a fasting food item and also considered pure enough to be offered to God during the fasting period. It is easily digestible and has positive nutritional aspect and is also a very famous and light pass time snacks. These are then eaten, often with a sprinkling of oil and spices. In Mithila culture of Bihar, India, the makhana is an auspicious ingredient in offerings to the Lord during festivals and is used in cooking, specially to make a porridge/pudding called kheer of makhana or ‘makhane ki kheer’.