Ginko Leaves The Odd Ones
The plants shown here are not necessarily "odd" - some are quite common, but they belong to small families or families that provide very few foods. Others really are odd. Some that were here have been moved to appropriate families or orders, and others will be as time permits.   Photo of Ginkgo Leaves in Autumn by Joe Schneid distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.



Arrowhead - [kuwai (Japanese), ci gu (China), Sagittaria sagittifolia (Asian)] - [Duck Poatao, Indian Potato, Broadleaf Arrowhead, Wapato Sagittaria latifolia (North American)]

The Asian species of this acquatic plant is seasonably available in Asian markets in Los Angeles and elsewhere. The tubers can be eaten raw or cooked. They are bland and starchy much like potato but when cooked are somewhat crunchier than potato. The photo specimens were 2-1/4 inches diameter and weighed 3 ounces each. They do not keep well even refrigerated so should be cooked within a couple of days.

Boiled arrowhead tubers figure prominently in both Chinese and Japanese New Years celebrations. They can also be sliced and deep fried like potato chips.

The North American version is not sold commercially. It was at one time eaten by the North American Indians but today is eaten mainly by beavers, porcupines and muskrats.

Drumstick Tree - [Horseradish Tree, Malunggay (Philippines), Sajina (India) Moringa oleifera]
These have been moved to Brassicales.

Ginkgo - [Ginkgo biloba]
Nuts/Leaves The Ginkgo doesn't actually belong here because it isn't a flowering plant - but it doesn't belong anywhere else either, so here it is. This tree has been with us for at least 270 million years and was widespread in the Jurassic an Cretaceous periods. While remarkably enduring, it evolved very slowly and was largely displaced by the flowering magnolia and it's rapidly evolving offspring. Finally, only a minor population remained in China, but it has now been planted worldwide as a popular decorative. Only male trees are planted in most places because the fruit contains butanoic acid which smells like very rancid butter. In China, female trees are widely cultivated for the seeds, sold here as "White Nut" in Asian groceries.

Dietary supplements made from extract of ginkgo leaves are thought to improve memory but this is controversial. The suplements are approved for treatment of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in Germany. I took them for that purpose when I contracted that problem from a certain brand of Australian red wine, but I'm not sure if they helped or the problem went away on its own. What is known is that ginkgo improves circulation in small blood vesels, reduces clotting and contains strong antioxidants.

The seeds are used in a number of Asian dishes and highly esteemed there, but should not be eaten by themselves in quantity over a long period of time because they cause poisoning by MPN (4-methoxypyridoxine). In the quantities called for by recipes and with the frequency such recipes are likely to be used they are perfectly safe.

Ginseng - [Panax quinquefolius (American), Panax ginseng (Korean)]
These have been moved to Parsley & Aralias.

Jujube - [Red Date, Chinese Date, Annab (Persia (dried)), Taejuja (Korea), Ziziphus zizyphus]
These have been moved to Buckthorns.

Kiwi Fruit - [Chinese Gooseberry, Yangtao, Actinidia deliciosa (standard Kiwi), Actinidia arguta (Hardy Kiwi, Baby Kiwi), Actinidia chinensis (Golden Kiwi)]

Native to northern China, this berry was taken to California in 1904 and New Zealand in 1906. Originally known as the Chinese Goosberry. The name "Kiwi" was selected as a marketing name when New Zealand growers started promoting the product ("Chinese" was considered not good during the Cold War). Italy is now the leading producer with New Zealand second and the two account for 75% of world production. A. deliciosa is now very common in the U.S. and the tiny A. arguta is gaining a market here as growers crank up production (yupies will pay more for "baby" anything). The yellow fleshed A. chinensis is still very seldom seen here.

Kiwi has soft green flesh with a taste that has been described as a mix of strawberry, banana, and pineapple. The seeds are edible and always eaten but fussy people peel the fuzzy skin. I don't bother - and get the advantage of the skin's high antioxidant content as a bonus.

Mâche   -   [Corn Salad, Lamb's Lettuce, Fetticus, Field Salad, Feldsalat, Nut Lettuce, Rapunzel; Valerianella locusta]

This small plant is the only commonly eaten species in the entire Valerian family (Red Valerian is edible, but not considered worth the bother). This slow growing herb is gathered wild and planted in gardens in cooler areas of the temperate region. In warmer areas it bolts too quickly. Because it is usually quite small with closely spaced leaves it is often used as a garnish in fancy restaurants.

Where easily avaialable it is a common salad green. The flavor is unique and slightly nutty (emphasis on "slightly"). The common name "Corn Salad" comes from it being a common weed in wheat fields (called "corn" in England). The photo specimens, about 2-3/4 inches across, were obtained from a specialty grower in a Los Angeles farmer's market.

Mangosteen - [Garcinia mangostana]
This fruit has been moved to Mangosteens.

Mauca - [Mauka, Chago, Mirabilis expansa]
This plant has been moved to Carnations.

Nettles - [Shishnu (Nepal); Urtica dioica subsp. gracilis (American) | Urtica dioica subsp. dioica (European) of family Urticaceae of order Rosales]

The Stinging Nettle is the only culinary member of the entire Urticaceae family. While this highly nutritous plant was important to the Native population of North America, it has fallen out of use here except as an ingredient in some herbal teas and hair treatment formulas. It is still eaten frequently in Ireland, and also in parts of Northern and Eastern Europe, as well in Nepal and the neighboring Kumaon division of India. It also has medicinal uses, particularly in treatment of arthritis. Details and Cooking.

Olluco - [Papa lisa (South America); Melloco (Ecuador); Olluco (Peru); Chugua (Colombia); Ruba (Venezuela); Ullucus tuberosus]
This plant has been moved to Carnations.

Papaya - [pawpaw, mamao, lechoza, Carica papaya]
These have been moved to Brassicales.

Pineapple [Ananas comosus]
Pineapple Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae) are a large family of fleshy leaved tropical and subtropical plants all originating from South America (with one genus established on the west central coast of Africa). They are very popular decorative plants and are also important in South America for food and fiber.

The Pineapple is the only bromeliad familiar as food in North America. There are several patented varieties sold in the U.S. and plenty of lawsuits as to who owns what. Taken throughout the tropics by the Spanish and Portuguese, the largest production is now in China and Southeast Asia, though Hawaii and Costa Rica produce most sold fresh in the USA.

South American pineapples are green when ripe but some of the patented varieties, particularly from Hawaii, are green and gold when ripe. Appearance and smell are the indicators of ripeness, not thumping or pulling leaves, and they do not ripen more once picked. Pineapples sold here in Southern Calfiornia are about 4 to 5 pounds. The photo specimen, a 4-1/2 pound fruit, yielded about 2-1/2 pounds (56%) when trimmed and cored. Chopped it's about 7-1/2 ounces per cup.

Poppy [Papaveraceae family]
Flowers Seeds The poppy of culinary interest is the Opium Poppy, Papaver somniferum the tiny seeds of which are used on baked goods in the U.S. and in curries and other dishes in India. Poppy seed oil is used for cooking in some parts of the world.

In Western cooking, black poppyseeds are presumed. In Indian cooking where they are used both for flavoring and as a thickener the white variety is presumed. Opium is harvested from the same seed pods but by time the seeds are mature there is negligeable opium in the pods - however, avoid poppy seed bagels before a drug test - you can be found positive.

Pictured is P. Eschscholzia californica, the California poppy which is supposed to have a mild opiate effect when the dried sap is smoked but is not supposed to be adictive. I haven't tried it so I can't confirm or deny. Seeds of the California Poppy have been used in cooking but the yield per pod is realtively small.

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