Chinese Cooking

Jim McKenney
Thu, 09 Oct 2008 09:03:19 PDT
Jim Waddick asked “Any other bulbous food rarities?”

In the past we’ve touched on such items as the South American Oxalis and
Tropaeolum used as food which occasionally appear in American markets now.
And we’ve talked about the mini-industry surrounding Amorphophallus konjac.
And we’ve had discussions on the use of salep. In another week or two I’ll
harvest my Mexican Oxalis: these come out of the ground with finger-sized,
bright white turgid, crunchy-looking roots which look like icicle radishes.
Oddly, these roots quickly shrivel once the bulbs are dug. 

A new email lily friend recently told me something about our native lilies
which I had never heard.  Evidently in his area there are dense populations
of Lilium superbum in areas which are not exactly typical habitat for this
species (typically it is associated in some way with water – along streams
or in seepage areas for instance). 

These dense populations are thought by some to be survivors of bulbs
stockpiled for food by Indians long ago. 

Now on to another aspect of the same topic. Some crocus have long been used
as food by humans. And the peculiar distribution of some tulips has been
attributed to their transport as food items by the Romans and Phoenicians. 

And Bob Werra's Moraea offer reminds me that the only Moraea I currently
grow, M. sisyrinchium, has been known since at least the sixteenth century
as "Spanish nut" - and it was no doubt in the trade as a food item long
before it was traded as an ornamental. 

With the exception of the Amorphophallus, none of these is Chinese. But
here's one which is, and it's hardly known at all nowadays: Stachys affinis
(aka S. sieboldii, S. tuberifera). It's still grown, but I can't immediately
put my finger on a current commercial source. If someone knows of one, I
would like to hear about it. 


Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where we're entering peak autumn crocus season. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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