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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Stinky, Edible Bulb

Amorphophallus konjac, Voodoo Lily Bloom

Amorphophallus konjac aka Voodoo Lily aka Shiritaki aka Konnyaku aka Stinky Flower

Today has been an interesting day as far as research goes.  If you haven't noticed, I have an affinity for the unusual and an empirical interest in edible flowers, and I found a doosey!

EatTheWeeds reports the plant to be of low food value.  But the low food value is precisely what has made the konjac corm so popular.

The Voodoo Lily has a huge corm from which a solitary flower slowly grows.  The flower can grow to be about 4' tall and according to many posts have an awful, rotting meat smell when in bloom.  However, it takes about 4 or 5 years for the corm to develop large enough to support the odiferous blossom.

It's Cormy, But True
Amorphophallus konjac, Voodoo Lily Corm

The Voodoo Lily will send up a flower when the corm is about the size of a large grapefruit.  Before that, it will grow what looks like a sparse tree with a leopard printed trunk and stems.

Interestingly, when the corm has started growing the stem from the center, it is ready to be replanted for the next growing season.  And, it prefers boggy type soil...  See where this is going?

After each growing season, the flower dies back and the 'tree' dies back.  It is then time to remove the corm from the growing medium and store it like any other potato.  This is a great segue to using the corm for food.

In the United States, we typically see the plain white highly gelatinous high fiber low calorie Shiritaki noodles. For the
Shiritaki Noodles, Konnyaku blocks
dedicated diet food hunters looking for something else, there is a less known tofu shaped block of Konnyaku.  I could only find the very bland and pale looking ita Konnyaku at our local Asiana Market.

Having tried the Shiritaki Noodles before and not feeling so impressed, I wanted to try the ita block and see if a different shape would suit me more.

A Chip Off The Old Block

Following the preponderance of instructions, the block was rinsed in cold water, scored on one side and half sliced the other half diced and thrown in boiling water for a good blanching.  After blanching, the slices and dices were tossed around in an un-oiled pan for 'dry stir frying' (rather than dry roasting) until the outside was dull and the sides were a slightly sunken.  

Recipe Alert:
Pork Konnyaku Green Bean Stir Fry

For testing purposes, a small amount of the diced Konnyaku was stir fried in olive oil, garlic, garlic chili and soy sauce for as long as it took for the Konnyaku to become stained and sizzling with color.  I tried it, and have to say that the texture was pretty much like sauteed mushroom.  I liked it.  It tasted good as well.

Totally willing to try this out with some soup stock and veggies on a regular basis like the pork and green bean stir fry.  I may even try the Shiritaki noodles again, only stir fried.

Having prepped the entire block, the remaining was put in a bowl and refrigerated for further testing.

Having satisfactorily passed the texture issue, I may try making some Konnyaku myself if I can put up with a stinky flower.

Amorphophallus konjac, Voodoo Lily Corms Harvested
However, if only growing the plant for corm production, the flower can be cut back so we don't have to suffer the stench and the plant can focus its energy on corm development.

The corms can get quite large, even pumpkin size from the looks of it.  The corms are reported to be quite healthful and is the source of Glucomannan that is getting pushed in the health market all over the place.

It is very interesting to see where some things come from.  If more people knew, would they still consume it?  Not that there is an ethical problem in harvesting the konjac corm that I'm aware of.  The blocks and noodles are so far removed from the source, I wonder if people would be interested in this amazing, magical food if the source was more apparent.  I rarely saw anything linking this all together in any other posts.

How To Make Konnyaku From Amorphophallus konjac Corms

Sashimi Konnyaku
NOTE:  Baking Soda can be used as a substitute for pickling lime.  Grey colored Konnyaku is made with unpeeled corms or with ground up nori bits or Yuzu.

To fake maguro, tomato coloring is added.  The ideas just kind of branch out and beg for testing.

For a desert style sashimi, splenda or a more authentic sweetener could be added to agar agar instead of Konjac powder or paste.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Winter Indoor Gardening

Indoor Tiny Ponds

Tiny Ponds In Apothecary Jars

With the new year, comes a new hobby.  The indoor planted aquarium and tiny ponds.  Many of my old apothecary jars were re purposed to create soothing, elegant little water scenes using mostly edible water plants.  The substrates we start with are Carib Sea Black Tahitian Moon Sand and Carob Sea Eco Complete, also black.  When researching, the black substrates always looked the most attractive, in my opinion.

To start the plants out, most are generally isolated in a single container to observe independent performance.  The first plants received was the wolffia, shown in the foreground of the image to the right.

Wolffia, Water Meal


Wolffia, aka Water Meal was purchased from a very nice person running ForestGardenFarm on Etsy.  According to EatTheWeeds, this is the tastiest version of duckweed.

The bag was a bit warm after sitting in my mailbox for several hours before I could get them.  The apothecary jar had been sitting around with water and ecocomplete substrate for about a week prior to adding the Wolffia.  

We had a high rate of survival, and the Wolffia seems to have increased since purchase.  There are some random little roots suspended from the top - I'm sure it's some other kind of duckweed (lentil), but I'm waiting to see what it is.  I did try a few that stuck on my fingers after stirring the top water a bit and it was a little sweet.  Something definitely to keep around and also to keep separated from the future aquariums so that it has an opportunity to grow and thrive instead of getting gobbled up by the aquarium inhabitants.  

Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce, Pistia stratiotes

Water Lettuce is a very elegant type of water plant.  The botanical name is Pistia stratiotes.  The fuzzy leaves float atop the water line, while the feathery roots drift downward towards the substrate.  

The water lettuce plants were purchaesd from ksam43 on eBay.  Water Lettuce is not edible raw.  EatTheWeeds states it can be edible if cooked, but provides caution to test samples and wait a bit to see if there is any burning reaction before consuming more.  

In a planted aquarium, water lettuce will provide great hiding places and it looks like some red cherry shrimp could be kept busy cleaning up the roots.  

Good for the aquarium, and great for compost.  In the right conditions, water lettuce can reproduce quickly.  Unwanted plants can be thrown in the compost bin as an excellent source of nitrogen.

American Lotus, Nelumbo lutea

American Lotus

American Lotus is a pretty large plant.  I ordered seeds from deepwoodsgoods on eBay.  I received a bunch of seeds - more than I need, probably.  

When researching, I learned that lotus seeds are viable for an incredible amount of time, so extra seeds are no problem. The trouble can be sprouting the seeds, which requires scarification, constant moisture and a warm temperature.  

EatTheWeeds reports many parts of both lotus types are edible.  I had to get them.

A bit of research, a few feeder rings and some nylons were put together to create the optimal sprouting environment (hopefully) for the lotus seeds.  This is a great segue to the second new hobby, planted aquariums.

Planted Aquarium

10 Inch Diameter Cylinder Vase Start-Up Aquarium

I purchased some really big cylinder vases; 10 inches in diameter by 12 inches high.  I like the shape and proportions and thought they'd make some nice looking planted aquarium/window farm reservoirs.  

Sadly, one was broken upon arrival, but the other was intact and the glass is super thick, so I could get started.  

Sand added at the bottom - about an inch or so.  Then the eco complete over that - about an inch or so.  Both more on the 'or so' side.  The extra water lettuce plants were dropped in and the feeder ring with nylon covering was suctioned to the side for sprouting the lotus seeds.  In this way, the lotus seeds should have the nice tropical warmth and lighting needed to get started.

Wabi Kusa Aquascaping


Plant selections kind of dictates the aquascape style,..  or the style dictated the plants - I'm not sure now.  I really like the sculptural look of Wabi Kusa and ended up ordering some mini-cattails as the aquascape thriller for one aquarium.  These were available from yazs2000 on eBay.  

Realizing the tiny tank is limited, we can probably place the mini cattails in a wabi kusa ball to help elevate it to the proper depth below the water line (6 - 10 inches).  The plants should be able to pop out of the top.

Mini Cattail

Right now, the mini cats are just coming out of dormancy with a few white spikes poking out above
Mini Cattail, Typha minima
the substrate in their current isolated environment.  

In an indoor tropical aquarium, these will probably never bloom - which isn't all bad.  The poufs are like dandelions and will drift all over the place, possibly reseeding and becoming invasive in the neighborhood.

EatTheWeeds reports cattails as edible, with reservations.  Typha minima was not specifically mentioned, so I'll remain skeptical and proceed with caution if I dare to try a stem or two.

Eleocharis dulcis, Asian Water Chestnuts

Asian Water Chestnuts

We purchased the Asian Water Chestnuts from WellSpringGardens on eBay.  WellSpringGardens has always been a great source of plants and I highly recommend them.

Anyone having eaten asian cuisine has probably tasted some kind of water chestnut - a crispy round bit that doesn't have a lot of flavor.  However, it has been reported that eating fresh water chestnuts is a much better experience.  The flavor is much better and the texture is crisp and delightful.  We received a water chestnut during its dormancy.  After reading up on the care of these plants, they will probably never get mixed in with an aquascape due to how prolific they are and the need for being drained and resting in a true bog substrate for a period of time before harvesting.