Year of Grace, Day 200. More garden exotica

As a student, I used to admire the sprouted taro corm that would occasionally grace the reception desk of our department office at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. I found such water arrangements charmingly quaint. After all, it is usually flowers or green indoor plants that are used for interior decor. But having a vegetable such as taro or water chestnut, sprouting in water indoors was rather unusual. And I loved it.

It occurred to me to try sprouting one of my own, some decades later, here in Bonn. I bought some taro corms from the Vietnamese food shop on Rosendal street in Altstadt (Old Town Bonn). I kept one in water, and then waited patiently until it began to shoot. I wasn’t altogether sure that it would, aware that some of these imported produce are subjected to all sorts of chemicals and treatments. So it was with great excitement that I greeted its first sign of life. Here is its first baby leaf. My taro looks almost like a baby dinosaur.

What’s interesting is that there was a never-ending influx of water drops that would pool on the leaf, forming gem-like cabochons, and then roll off.

Fascinating! And it was a challenge for M and I to catch the water droplet on camera before it flowed off the leaf and back into the water below.

Once my taro plant had three leaves, I figured it was time to give it more nourishment than just water. Here it is set in potting compost.

My taro plant stays outside from spring till the beginning of autumn, and it then spends the winter indoors in a bright spot. I noticed though that the leaves naturally die down. When they do, I decrease watering, only adding a bit from time to time just to prevent the soil from completely drying up. The leaves start shooting up again in spring, and that’s when regular watering can begin. Taro plants love lots of water, and don’t even mind being submerged totally in it.

This year, its third, my plant has made lots of side shoots.  I probably ought to cover it up with some more potting compost.

I began with just the one corm, and now three years later there are 2 plants in the pot. At some point, I may have to harvest some corms, just to see what my exotic taro, now quite acclimatized to Bonn, tastes like. A few small corms, no larger than quail’s eggs, would be lovely in a rich broth with an assortment of wild mushrooms and aromatic mountain greens, otherwise known as imonoko jiru (taro corm soup), an autumn specialty of Yuzawa, Akita, in northeastern Japan.

Taro and imonoko jiru call to mind my friend Okuyama-san from Yuzawa. I can see in my mind’s eye his face full of glee as he tells stories. Okuyama-san, M, and I, and our first son, then just two, sit around the irori (firepit) set into the tatami floor of our ancient wooden Japanese house, sipping hot sake (our son is having juice) while waiting for the pot of imonoko jiru to come to the boil. The tiny corms have just been dug that very afternoon from Okuyama-san’s vegetable garden at the edge of town. I can almost sense the green herbal scent of seri (Oenanthe javanica, please note this is the only Oenanthe species that is not toxic), also from Okuyama-san’s garden, and the earthiness of wild mushrooms, bought that morning from the elderly women who gather these delights from deep in the mountains, and go around from house to house peddling their freshly-collected wares. One of those, called maidake (dancing mushroom) is a hallucinogen, and Okuyama-san loved to recount the story of one of his ancestors who was somewhat of a dandy. After having rather more than a bit of maidake, Okuyama-san’s Ur-forefather takes a running leap over the bubbling taro broth (this is all happening outdoors, by the way). And having made it safely without overturning the pot on the fire, he pats himself and his kimono rather exaggeratedly, saying meanwhile, “Does anyone else detect the smell of singed silk?” Sumptuary laws of the times forbade silk to non-aristocrats you see, and those who could afford it, took care to only wear it as undergarments inside outer kimonos of cotton or linen or hemp.

On this my 200th day of posting in my grace journal, I am grateful for the continued blessing of health, without which daily life can become somewhat challenging. I am thankful too for having made it this far in writing this journal, and what’s more, that many continue to read and enjoy my posts. A heartfelt thanks and blessings of health and grace to all my readers!

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