Eat a Corpse (Lily)October 30, 2015
It’s usually May when we see social media feeds fill with photos of various deep purple corpse lily flowers. Each comes with questions and comments like “What’s this thing? It stinks so bad!” So, why write about it in October?
Well, Halloween, of course. And, not just because of the whole creepy, monster factor. More importantly, one of these corpse lilies may help offset blood sugar overload. Yep, you really can eat part of at least one of these plants.
Let’s begin by looking at one that’s really common in the PacNW – Dracunculus vulgaris. And, to be clear, this one isn’t edible (to our knowledge). It is, however, very easy to cultivate. And, once you have this dragon lily growing, it’s tough to eradicate.
Plant this towering perennial where you can admire its visual voodoo but not choke on its awful aroma, both of which last only a very few days when its enormous bloom puts on a stink bad enough to make flies fight. By autumn, its pollinated spathe becomes a club-sized knob of bright orange berries just waiting to scatter and take over your entire garden. So, enjoy the color, but compost it before it shoots those tiny little punkins everywhere. It may be cool to look at, but nobody wants an invasive, non-edible stinker taking over.
Similar in scent but distinctively different than Dracunculus is a fantastically edible corpse flower that’s under-used in the US. In fact, when I began researching Amorphophallus konjac in a quest to grow it for food, I couldn’t find a PacNW supplier of the tubers. Fortunately, plant explorer Tony Avent of Plants Delight Nursery in North Carolina came to my rescue by shipping more than just a couple of baby plants for me to begin cultivating in a quest to grow foods for better blood sugar.
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Yep! The root of the Amorphophallus konjac corpse lily is edible and has been eaten for centuries in Asia. Often it is served sliced in a jelly form. We like it as a traditional pasta alternative. Grain-based noodles usually pack a high carbohydrate punch, but konjac noodles are pretty much nothing but fiber — no fat, sugar, carbs, calories, gluten or other ugly ingredients, especially if you grow your own. And, they easily absorb sauces without adding a flavor of their own.
But, it may take years to cultivate your own harvest, so buying pre-made shirataki noodles may make more sense for your Halloween dinner. All that fiber might help soak up some of the treats your tricksters gobble down rather than piling on more pasta carbs at the dinner table.
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Growing this cousin of the giant Amorphophallus titanum is fairly simple, but A. konjac does require patience. First, it will probably take a few years before your plant will bloom.
Even the mature tubers Tony sent us didn’t bloom the first year, but the foliage itself is striking, so those early years weren’t a bust. Once ours did begin blooming, their deformed penis flowers didn’t disappoint. And, in fact, they didn’t smell nearly as bad as the nearby European Dracunculus. Sadly, konjacs don’t emerge from the soil in our area until it’s almost summer, and just because they bloom one year doesn’t mean they’ll bloom again the next. Such fickle stinkers, but they’re worth it!
Want to start your own bed of corpses? Here are the links to buy via Plant Delights, and no, we haven’t received compensation to write this post or share these links. And, while Tony did generously supply us with more mature tubers, we did pay for them.