Thursday, February 28, 2008

The tropics, elephant ears and oxalic acid

I'm pondering naming my two indian spinach plants Seymore 1 and Seymore 2. Have you ever seen more brutal seedlings? When Impecta mentioned that these needed big containers they weren't joking. I'll need to replant these, eventhough I put them in pots 14 cm wide (5 1/2").

Indian spinach are one of the plants I've started growing since I took some time evaluating my indoor climate. The most common temperature range in the flats I've lived in is 20-24¤C (68-75¤F), most often closer to 24¤ (75¤) eventhough we are shutting down all radiators. For some reason we've always chosen homes on top level, and are warmed by the flats below. Today we are living in an appartement with most windows to the south, so between ten o'clock and two o'clock in the afternoon we reach 26¤ (79¤) or higher.

Does this sound like swedish outdoor climate? Nope, it's closer to the tropics. So why not try out some tropical plants? I picked indian spinach (Basella alba) on the name. India is warm, right? I'm pretty exited about this experiment, and the plants seems to thrive so far.

Next plant will be elephant ear or taro (Colocasia esculenta). I picked it in the same way; one of our seed catalogues mentiones that it's used as food in the tropics. It resembles a monstera and I wouldn't be surprised if it's already grown as house plant in Sweden.

But if you are going to pick foreignish plants like that you have to do your resaerch. There are plants that are toxic in their raw forms and have to be treated to be edible. Yams is the most typical exemple; a root tuber which preparation takes days of pounding, leaching and drying before the toxins are removed.

I discovered that elephant ear is toxic in raw form due to high levels of oxalic acid. You find oxalic acid in vegetables as spinach and rhubarb, so it's hardly an unknown substance to swedish culture, and anyone who has eaten rhubarb pie (traditional swedish summer dessert) knows one survive. I do suspect elephant ear is easy to cook safely, but I'll do some more research before I buy the seeds.

And how's my wood working projects going? It's a slow but steady progress I'd say. Today I brought out our foldable workbench and cut out the bottom piece to the nursery. I took some time since I had to bring the bench out from its hiding place under the stairs. Can you see it? It's in the furthest corner...


Nicole said...

We cook Colocasia-both the leaves and roots extensively in the Caribbean, but you must know that there are edible and inedible (ornamental) varieties-and all the edible varieties must be well cooked.

Rosengeranium said...

Thanks! I'm not sure the swedish seed selling company knows, so I'll will definately study this further.

themanicgardener said...

I've never heard a seedling called "brutal" before--love it! If they didn't just go into a sulk after that, then the shoe probably fits.

Rosengeranium said...

It was brutal right up to the end. Normaly indian spinach grows vines up to ten meters (eleven yards), so I had a hard time keeping it at its alloted length (~1,5 meters / 1.5 yards).