February 1, 2023
Nelumbo nucifera

Nelumbo nucifera

Nelumbo nucifera or as it is also known Sacred Lotus, Chinese Arrowroot, Indian Lotus, East Indian Lotus, Padma, Water Bean, Eastern Lotus, Bean of India, Chinese Waterlily, Egyptian Bean or just Lotus. It is an aquatic, rhizomatous perennial plant. It is from the plant family of Nelumbonaceae.

It is native to Asia, including, Southern Himalayas, Northern Indochina, Northern, and Central India, and isolated areas around the Caspian Sea. Cultivation records are going back 3000 years, in many Asian countries. It is also popular for its edible seeds. Nelumbo nucifera is not to be confused with water lilies or Nymphaea as in some cases it used to be identified as such.

Nelumbo nucifera
Nelumbo nucifera at the Temple of Emerald Buddha at Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Nelumbo nucifera leaves can grow up to 80cm or 3ft wide. The flower grows almost 30cm or 12in wide. It has solitary pink or white flowers that appear on long stalks above the water in the summer. The plant is usually planted in soil and the tall leaves and flowers are above the water.

How to grow Nelumbo nucifera:

Plant them in heavy loam enriched with farmyard manure when available. In general, they need nutrient-rich soil. Nelumbo nucifera prefers full sun exposure. They need to be at a depth of about 50cm or 20in. Remove foliage when it’s faded. If you grow them in colder climates you need to gradually reduce the water level. Remove the containers they are planted in. And store them in a frost-free location.

Propagate Nelumbo nucifera by seeds, after you scarify them. Watch out for spider mite or greenhouse whitefly, otherwise, Nelumbo nucifera is generally disease-free.

Nelumbo nucifera is one of the very few plants that can regulate its temperature just as humans do. Research shows that it maintains a temperature of 30-35° C or 86-95° F even in cold climates. It is believed this is to help and attract pollinators. Nelumbo nucifera seeds have a very long life. Nelumbo nucifera produces a lot of seeds that sit at the bottom of lakes for years even when lakes or ponds die down. Then a new flood could transport them to a new location where given the right climate, they germinate.

Nelumbo nucifera
Nelumbo nucifera

Nelumbo nucifera as food:

Lotus is also farmed for human consumption. Almost 70% of these cultivation or farming happens in China. Almost all parts of Lotus plants are consumed in some form or another. Rhizomes are harvested and consumed as vegetables in many Asian countries. Lotus can be fried or cooked in soups or even pickled. In Korea, they consume Lotus root tea. In Sri Lanka, it is cooked with coconut milk.

Nelumbo nucifera rhizomes contain a lot of starch and are similar in texture to potatoes. Nelumbo nucifera seeds are consumed and are usually dried through various methods. They are used in moon cakes, rice wine, and ice cream. The tea from the seed is consumed in Korea, China, and Vietnam.

Nelumbo nucifera stems are used in Vietnamese cuisine in salads. In India, they use it in soups such as “Kamal gate ki Sabji”(कमल गट्टे की सब्जी) or they fry it as a side plate called n Kerala (in Malayalam “താമര”) or Tamil Nadu or Tamara Vathal. They use the leaves of Nelumbo nucifera as a tea in China and Korea. They also, use it for wrapping rice or other dishes fit for steaming, such as lo man gai in China and kaolin for bai bua in Thailand. They make tea from the flowers in Korea. Even the stamens are dried and made into tea in China. Though most of these parts can be eaten raw it’s better not to to prevent the risk of parasites.

Water purification and Nelumbo nucifera:

They use Nelumbo nucifera for purifying water. It is studied for wastewater treatment. It also reduces algae growth and increases oxygenations in the water. It seems Nelumbo nucifera is better than Water Hyacinths which is also used for the same purpose.

As you can see Nelumbo nucifera has numerous uses, they use the plant fibers to make a fabric called cya thingahn. They use this fabric to dress Buddha images mostly in Myanmar and Cambodia. Nelumbo nucifera is also used in modern medicine production by pharmaceuticals.

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