This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Edible Canna

 Another plant I learned about after moving South is the Canna Lily. Not a true Lily, again, don't be confused by the common names of plants. They are tall plants with huge leaves and topped by beautiful delicate flowers. Generally the foliage is more impressive than the flowers but many cultivars have been bred to accentuate the flowers.
 When I moved into my new home it was winter so I had to wait till the Spring to see what plants and flowers were planted around the property. When Spring finally arrived, I noticed what looked like a bulb beginning to break the surface of the ground. As the summer progressed they got taller and taller till they were over my head, than a flower spike started to grow and beautiful red flowers began to appear. By this time I noticed these plants growing all over the place. Apparently a very popular garden plant in NC.
 I never really pursued any further knowledge of the plants till one day I was looking through my Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds and saw Canna listed. Turns out there are a couple of Edible species of Canna grown around the world. Of course I had to buy some seeds!
 Canna edulis is grown in parts of the world for its Edible tubers. They are grown for the starch that is used to thicken soups and stews etc.( like Arrowroot or Kudzu) and also for the tubers to be eaten like Potatoes.
  I planted mine in the early spring in pots so I could bring them in to protect from frost. They grew easily and I was excited that only one seed didn't come up. They grew rapidly and were ready to transplant as the weather got warmer. I really didn't expect to see flowers this year but to my surprise when they were about 4.5 feet tall they started to flower. These are spectacular plants. The foliage is magnificent and the flowers beautiful.
 I tried a taste of the leaves but they were bitter. Apparently you need to get them when they first come up and before they are unfurled. The young flower stem is supposed to be good cut up and sauteed, though I was not willing to sacrifice a new plant to try this. We will see next spring. I did try the flowers and they were good, though again, I wasn't willing to eat too many as I wanted to collect the seeds to grow more next year.
I also tried the young seed pods and they were also good, slightly sweet and a little mucilaginous. The mature seeds are rock hard so I wasn't willing to risk a broken tooth just to try them. I read somewhere one of the common names of the plant is 'Shot Plant' because the seeds are used as shotgun pellets.
 So, the adventure of the Canna Lily is just beginning. This fall I will dig some of the tubers and see if they have reproduced enough to sacrifice a few to taste then and to try extracting the starch to use as a thickener. Next year I will try the stems etc.
 If I try anything new with the Canna I will keep you abreast of the results.