In the world of plants, we often think of lush gardens, fertile soils, and bountiful harvests. However, there is a fascinating world of greenery that thrives solely in aquatic environments. Many of these aquatic species offer not only an aesthetic appeal but also a delectable treat for our taste buds. Edible aquatic plants offer a unique culinary experience, connecting us with the bounties of water-based ecosystems. Their delicate flavors and versatile uses in various dishes make them a valuable addition to both traditional and modern cuisine.
✯Plant Food in Aquatic Ecosystems
Beyond their culinary appeal, plants that grow in water play a vital role in maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems. They help filter and purify water, absorb excess nutrients, and provide habitat and food for various aquatic creatures. These plants, often known as "macrophytes," contribute to the overall balance of aquatic environments.
✯Here is a list of 6 plants that grow in water that you can safely consume:
➸Watercress (Nasturtium officinale):
Watercress is a semi-aquatic plant known for its vibrant green leaves and peppery flavor. It's often found in streams and other bodies of clean, flowing water. Rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as essential minerals like calcium and iron, watercress is a powerhouse of nutrients. Its distinct flavor adds a zesty kick to salads, sandwiches, and soups. As a natural source of plant food, watercress contributes to a well-balanced diet. Additionally, many also incorporate watercress in pastas to add a kick to the flavor.
Since the leaves of watercress are more tender than that of other plants, it cooks faster than the rest and thus need not be cooked much.
➸Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera):
The lotus is a sacred aquatic plant in many cultures and boasts more than just beautiful blooms. Its seeds are commonly used in Asian cuisines and have a unique crunch and nutty flavor. They are often roasted, candied, or used as a topping for confections. Lotus leaves are large and sturdy, making them ideal for wrapping ingredients for steaming. This versatile plant is not only a culinary treasure but also a symbol of purity and enlightenment. Its stems and roots are also often added to soup and stir-fry recipes.
Many claim that adding lotus root to your diet can also help prevent and alleviate infections and allergies.
➸Water Spinach (Ipomoea aquatica):
Water spinach, known as "kangkong" or "morning glory," is a fast-growing aquatic plant. Its tender stems and leaves are mild in flavor, making them a popular addition to various dishes in Asian cuisine. Stir-frying is a common preparation method, and it pairs well with garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. Water spinach is rich in vitamins A and C and provides a source of plant food to countless communities.
➸Chinese Water Chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis):
Chinese water chestnuts are small corms with a crunchy texture and sweet, nutty flavor. These aquatic delicacies are used in a range of Asian dishes. They are peeled and sliced before being added to stir-fries, salads, or even desserts. Their crispness adds a delightful crunch to dishes, and they are a source of dietary fiber and potassium.
➸Taro (Colocasia esculenta):
Taro is a tropical plant that thrives in wet, marshy conditions. It's known for its starchy corms, which are a staple in tropical and subtropical cuisines. Taro corms can be cooked in various ways, including boiling, frying, or mashing, and are used in soups, stews, snacks, and even desserts. They offer a versatile, earthy flavor and are a significant source of carbohydrates.
➸Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes):
The water hyacinth, although often considered an invasive species, has edible parts. The young leaves and tender stems can be used in salads and stir-fries. They have a mild, slightly grassy flavor and can add a unique touch to various dishes. Be cautious when harvesting this plant, as it can be invasive in natural water systems.
Remember, when foraging or cultivating these plants, it's essential to be knowledgeable about their proper identification, growth conditions, and potential ecological impacts. Additionally, incorporating these edible aquatic plants into your culinary repertoire can introduce you to new flavors, textures, and culinary traditions while supporting sustainable food sources.