bread upon the waters III

I’m wondering just how much bread I can cast on the waters – I blogged about breadcasting in December, and business or opportunities in November, and now it’s back again. Truely, it’s like the hula-hoop, it just doesn’t go away.

While doing some research for my aquaculture blog, I found an article on the culinary and herbal uses of aquatic plants, by the Rev. Charles H. Overton at the 1994 Symposium of the International Water Lily Society, in Sparsholt, Germany.

Rev. Overton notes an Egyptian (or Arabic) saying ‘Do a good deed and throw it (bread) into the river. When this dries up, you shall find it’.

He suggests the bread is the seeds of the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) which were wrapped in balls of clay and thrown into the flood waters of the Nile. The seeds from the cup-sized seed heads were pounded into flour and the mature rootstocks also were dug up and eaten as the flood waters dried up. I’ve eaten lotus root myself, in China, but I must say it wasn’t as good as I had expected. It is common to see dried lotus root in chinese markets – it’s that woody looking substance with the holes in it – looks like something that’s escaped from Martha Stewart’s other garland, and is about to get spray painted gold.

Overton further notes that Herodotus (484-424BC) described the practice of making bread from the lotus roots (rhizomes, to be obsessive), but suggests it may also have predated the introduction of Nelumbo nucifera (probably circa 525BC) in which case the edible rootstocks would have been Nymphaea lotus or Nymphaea caerulea. Pliny (1st century AD) wrote of the Egyptian practice of making bread from lotus seed mixed with milk or water, ‘There is not any bread in the world more wholesome and lighter than this, so long as it is hot, but being once cold, it is harder of digestion and becometh weighty and ponderous’.

Personally, although lotus wouldn’t be my vegetable of choice – I’m thinking Desert Island Vegetables – now THAT would be a great tv programme – far better than Joanna Lumley making shoes out of her bra – or have I got that around the wrong way? Anyway, our waterlily is shyly flowering at the moment (despite my lack of care and attention) and in my heaven there are lotus aplenty. Not as food, but as what they are – stately and elegant pool dwellers.


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