by OCMGA Vice President Tom Wentzel
I love cannas. They are easy to grow and make a striking statement in the landscape. I usually plant 10 – 15 at various points. This adds continuity through the landscape. These plants yield enough rhizomes to start maybe 75 plants next spring – more than enough to supply the Master Gardener plant sale.
What other uses are there for this prolific plant? Food?
There are a lot of references stating that the plants are edible. Not surprisingly there is little specific information on how to prepare them and no information that I could find on what they taste like. I thought I’d find out for myself.
The following link does contain a lot of information how the plant is used. Cannas are native to Central America and their use in the local diet goes back in time. All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves are used as wrappers like banana leaves, typically to make tamales. I would think they could also be used for a luau style pork roast.
This article out of Texas discusses a few more uses and goes into a bit more detail about preparation. Canna rhizomes are very high in starch. But still nothing about the taste.
Here are my findings. Because my quest started after the freeze, all I had to work with were the rhizomes. I used 3 preparation methods raw, boiled and baked. The same way potatoes would be prepared. (Yes, potatoes are very good raw.) The texture of the raw rhizomes was similar to the pleasing crispiness of jicama. The baked and boiled rhizomes had a texture roughly similar to potatoes.
So what about the taste? With all 3 preparation methods the taste was bland. My wife just looked at me like I was crazy and, wisely, did not partake in this side dish. Would I try the rhizomes again – probably not? Using the leaves as a wrapper is intriguing. It will depend on my whims next summer.