August 19, 2009

One of the world's richest starch sources

When I was little, each summer we drove, in caravan, from Roanoke Rapids to Emerald Isle, NC. Less than a four hour drive, but it seemed endless to this impatient six year old. If I was lucky, and it was especially hot, I got to ride in my grandparents' air conditioned Oldsmobile instead of my parents' (un-air conditioned) Subaru.

Connecting us was some sort of old fashioned walkie-talkie CB radio thing by which rest stops (a seriously stinky, but much revered duck pond-swamp in Kinston or Maysville), tongue twisters (if Pop picked Peter Piper a peck of pickled peppers), game achievements (that Wooly Willy guy with the magnetic mustache and beard), and roadside attractions such as flora, fauna and local fare, as can only be experienced in the middle of July in Eastern North Carolina, were communicated.

In one such conversation, my mother radioed to me 'See the Canna lilies, Emily' only it came out 'See the Canna lilies, Lemily?'

I was reminded of this a few years ago when I discovered:

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But what really makes me smile is my first, very own, Canna lily:

Canna (or Canna lily, although not a true lily) is a genus of nineteen species of flowering plants.[1][2][3] The closest living relations to cannas are the other plant families of the order Zingiberales, that is the gingers, bananas, marantas, heliconias, strelitzias, etc. Read more on Wikipedia

Highlighted facts:
* The canna rhizome is rich in starch, and it has many uses in agriculture. All of the plant has commercial value, rhizomes for starch (consumption by humans and livestock), stems and foliage for animal fodder, young shoots as a vegetable and young seeds as an addition to tortillas.
* The seeds are used as beads in jewelry.
* In more remote regions of India, cannas are fermented to produce alcohol.
* The plant yields a fibre - from the stem - it is used as a jute substitute.
* A fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making paper. The leaves are harvested in late summer after the plant has flowered, they are scraped to remove the outer skin and are then soaked in water for 2 hours prior to cooking. The fibres are cooked for 24 hours with lye and then beaten in a blender. They make a light tan brown paper.
* A purple dye is obtained from the seed.
* Smoke from the burning leaves is said to be insecticidal.
* Cannas are used to extract many undesirable pollutants in a wetland environment as they have a high tolerance to contaminants.
* In Thailand, Cannas are a traditional gift for Father's Day.

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