I am nearing the end of a short course, held over four Saturdays, on Food Plants; their botany, cultivation and history, at a delightful place in South East London, the South London Botanical Institute – www.slbi.org.uk. The course aims to take a closer look at some major western food crops, grains, beverages, fruit and vegetables. As part of the course work each participant is asked to give a short presentation on an unusual vegetable, or fruit or grain. An abridged version of my presentation is below. My interest in the classification, cultivation and history of our food plants and flowers is definitely blooming, helping me see the bigger picture of the plant world, which in turn is leading to a much deeper understanding of planting and growing.
Giboshi – A hidden vegetable in the garden
During a conversation about gardening with a friend of a friend, I mentioned that it would be impossible to grow hostas on my plot due to the slugs. The response – Eat the leaves before the slugs! It is true; you can eat hosta leaves and flowers with the young shoots being the most sought after. Check out this website www.giboshiarekore.com/recipe
Hostas, native to China, Japan, and Korea, are also known as Funkia, Plantain Lillies, or Giboshi. Its culinary name in Japan is Urui. They are herbaceous perennial plants, growing from rhizomes or stolons, preferring a slightly acidic fertile and well-drained soil. Hostas benefit from a mulch of good organic matter or leaf mould.
The hosta variegation is due to naturally occurring plant mutations, commonly known as sports, producing leaves with the various colour shadings and markings. Or we have the beautiful Hosta.sieboldianna with its glaucous waxy leaf coating giving a lovely blue appearance.
Hostas are angiosperms (plants that have flowers and produce seeds within a carpel) monocotyledons (plants that have one seed leaf). The genus is now placed in the Asparagaceae family (though formerly placed in the Liliacea family). Named after the Austrian botanist, Nicolaus Thomas Host, the personal physician to the Holy Roman Emperor Francis ll, the majority of hosta species grown today are from plants introduced to Europe from Japan by Philipp Franz von Siebold in the 19th Century.
The question now is which supermarket will be the first to sell hosta leaves for supper? And will the slugs revolt as we take away yet another delectable vegetable from their dining table.