Field of Science

Strange and wonderful new things

One of the primary goals of teaching economic botany is to put a lot of new things in front of students, strange and wonderful things, new things to tickle the old curiosity.  The problem is that you never quite know what will and what will not be amazingly interesting.  Today's lab topic was legumes.  While shopping last night TPP was quite surprised to see fresh faba beans something he's never seen in local markets before.  Well, the students will have fun with those thinks he, but little or no interest in such a novel item, although a colleague passing through the lab took time to open a pod and mess with the huge bean inside.  Today's smash hit, a double header actually, were spicy masala peanuts from an Indian grocery and jicama.  Jicama (HIH-kah-muh) is a pretty unusual vegetable from a bean, the yam bean, in a family largely known for fruits and seeds.  These large "tubers" or rather a fleshy storage root has quite tasty, crunchy flesh; you peel off the corky skin.  Makes for a nice alternative to carrot sticks or in salads for "clunch".  For reasons that cannot be explained this was a big hit with this year's class.  The yam bean (Pachyrhizus erosus) is a neotropical native, a vine with perennial storage root.  Look at the generic name; pachy = thick (pachyderm - thick skin) and rhizus = root, pretty descriptive.  The quick lentil curry was largely consumed as well, of course, when you lab meets just after lunch, anybody who skipped eating is well prepared to try something new. 

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