Growing Plants Alismatales - Water Plantains
Order Alismatales consisted of a number of obscure aquatic and marine plants of minor culinary interest - until APG II found a large and important family of swamp plants, the Arums, belonged to this order. It is thought the whole Monocot Clade is descended from aquatic plants due to a range of characteristics.   Photo of Arrowhead by Notafly distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.


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Arums   -   [family Araceae]
Growing Plants

This family of plants is of critical importance as food crops in tropical regions, growing well where other starchy food crops cannot thrive. Leaves of some are also cooked and eaten. Interestingly the Arums produce both the largest and the smallest flowers known in nature. One tiny free floating aquatic variety, long known for cleaning up fish ponds, is now being developed as a nutritious ingredient for food processing. Due to their importance as both decoratives and food plants, the Arum Family has its own page.

Sweet Flag   -   [Acorus americanus, Acorus calamus (Eurasian species) of Genus Acorus of order Acoraceae]
Flowering Plant

Once placed among the Arums, APG II has placed Acorus not only in its own family, but in a separate order, as the last known representative of the oldest line of monocots. As a sister group to all other monocots, it may be a precursor to the Arums, or even to all the Alismatales. Not all botanists accept this placement, and since Acorus includes nothing else edible, I'm listing it here without apology. Fossils have been found from the Eocene, about 50 million years ago.

The grass-like leaves of this bog plant are common in the northeast U.S. and Asia. The rhizomes (underground stems) were eaten by Native Americans in times past but it is no longer a significant food plant. European settlers planted the Eurasian species, although the American species (identical to a Siberian species) was already common in North America.

Sweet Flag was long used as a food flavoring and in perfumes, but the FDA banned all varieties from food in 1968 when one variety in India was found to contain a carcinogen, even though the varieties found here don't contain that substance. In areas where Sweet Flag grows, leaves are sometimes placed in jars of sugar as a flavoring substitute for vanilla bean. Leaves are used for their fragrance and to repel weevils from stored grains. The root is used medicinally.   Photo by Jack Greenlee, U.S. Forest Service = Public Domain.

Arrowhead   -   [Kuwai (Japan), Ci gu (China); Sagittaria sagittifolia   |   Duck Potato, Indian Potato, Broadleaf Arrowhead, Wapato: Sagittaria latifolia   |   Sagittaria trifolia]
Tubers

S. sagittifolia is native through most of Europe and Asia, from Siberia to Turkey and on to Australia. The tubers are seasonably available in Asian markets here in Los Angeles. They can be eaten raw or cooked, including fried as chips. They are bland and starchy, much like potato, but when cooked are somewhat crunchier. 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 few days of purchase. Boiled tubers figure prominently in both Chinese and Japanese New Years celebrations.

S. latifolia, native to the Americas, 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. It is native from southern Canada all the way down to northern South America, but has become naturalized in much of Europe.

S. trifolia, native from Ukraine to Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, is cultivated in parts of Asia for its nutritious tubers. Species not listed here may also be eaten in the regions where they grow.

Cape Pond Weed   -   [Waterblommetjie (South Africa), Water Hawthorn, Vleikos: Aponogeton distachyos]
Flowering Plants

This pond plant, native to South Africa, is now cultivated there and in some other suitable regions. In South Africa, its flower buds have been valued as a flavoring since arrival of the first Dutch settlers. It is most used in a mutton stew called Waterblommetjie Bredie. This plant grows from a tuberous rhizome which goes dormant when the ponds (Vleis) dry up, and sprout new foliage when the rains return. Outside South Africa it is often used for pond landscaping, from which it has escaped and reportedly become naturalized in parts of southwestern California.   Photo by Cillas distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

Yellow Burr Head   -   [Yellow Sawah Lettuce, Yellow Velvetleaf; Gènjèr (indonesia); Phak Khan Chong (Laos); Phak Khan Chong (Thai); Cebolla de Chucho (Philippine); Kèo nèo, Cù nèo (Vietnam); Limnocharis flava]
Flowering Plants

Native to the tropical Americas, including the Caribbean, this plant has become naturalized in wet environments through South and Southeast Asia, including southern China. Despite it's America origin, the leaves and stems are widely eaten in Asia in soups, curries, salads and stir fries. In Isan (eastern Thailand) it is often eaten raw with sour chili sauce. In some regions it is considered food for the poor due to its modest flavor.   Photo by Michael Wolf distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

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