Thursday, April 2, 2020

Hedychium gardnerianum flower very tasty

Apparently only the huge B and T World Seeds list of edible flowers reports the glorious flowers of Hedychium gardnerianum as edible. They are one of the tastiest flowers I have ever eaten (though most edible flowers are quite bland). They taste rather like the related ginger as one might expect. They are a bit intense on their own but good added in moderation to stir-fry, soup or salad.

I also tried the peeled pith of young shoots and the pith of the base of mature stems, both are easily eaten and similar in flavor. I could not find any record of the stems or shoots being eaten by humans but the shoots of at least two other Hedychium are used as food, Hedychium coronarium(1) and Hedychium densiflorum (2). I have only tried the shoots of Hedychium coronarium which taste much the same, gingery. Since references to these two species being eaten in their native habitats are quite recent and rare it is possible Hedychium gardnerianum shoots are also eaten locally but this has just not entered the literature yet. 

I found Hedychium gardnerianum growing vigorously in quite a difficult spot at my place, on a steep bank under considerable (but not complete) shade of conifers and other trees. This plant is officially considered a weed here in New Zealand. Perhaps it deserves to be considered a national treasure not a pest. 


1. Edible Roots and Underground Stems of Ethnic India. S K Sood, Ved Prakash 2007.

2. ETHNOBOTANICAL STUDIES ON KHAMBA AND ADI TRIBES OF TUTING AREA, UPPER SIANG DISTRICT, ARUNACHAL PRADESH. L.R. Bhuyan*, Yapi Pangu, Ngilyang Tam. Bulletin of Arunachal Forest Research, Vol. 32 (1&2), 27-40: 2017

Friday, October 18, 2019

Aloe vera as food.

Aloe vera leaves have been used as food in India, China, Vietnam and the Mediterranean, at least historically (Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World. Tyozaburo Tanaka. 1976.)

The leaves are invariably reported to be bitter and raw they definitely are too bitter for most (if not all) palates.

However chopped up into pieces a few cm long and boiled for 8-10 minutes they loose their bitterness and have quite a nice taste, reminiscent of  Pac Choy or Celery with a distinctive texture also somewhat like Pac Choy.

I'm not sure if it grows fast enough in temperate climates to be very useful in the vegetable garden but since it spreads to form a dense ground cover it uses space very efficiently (no gaps between plants).

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Pigeons like eating worm casting waste

A rather strange thing my pigeons very much like to do is eat the sludge that comes out of the tap of my tiger worm farms. They are well fed on grain and are actually quite fussy about what they eat. They've been doing this for many years with no noticeable ill effects, perhaps there is a benefit. Birds normally eat worms of course, which would include some castings still in the worms. Perhaps the remains of worms themselves are nutritious and attractive.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Dominance Bias Recognition as Philosophical Tool

A common flaw or bias in thinking I think I have noticed, that I have not seen much writing on, is "dominance bias" *. People will tend to believe anything that construes them as dominant in line with the universal primate instinct for dominance (1).

For instance someone marginal to industrial capitalism, such as youth or the unemployed will be more likely to believe industrial capitalism is destroying the planet, because this will construe them as morally superior to, hence "dominant over", anyone more successful than them in the capitalist hierarchy. They may also believe the "system" is going to collapse and they will be in an advantageous (dominant) position when this happens compared to people who are currently more powerful or important than them.

A powerful person within industrial capitalism might be more likely to believe industrialism greatly benefits rather than threatens our species survival. They will likely believe it can adapt to future crises as it has in the past. Again this view might simply be held because it construes the thinker as dominant, not because of evidence or rational argument.

I only use the "environmental crisis" as an example, dominance bias can occur in all areas of thought and life.

Keeping an eye out for dominance bias should not be that difficult once one is aware of it and should in my view be added to the standard repertoire of philosophical tools.


It is possible dominance bias appears universal at present due to the apparent narcissism epidemic (2) in laissez-faire Western society. It might be that instincts, such as the instinct for dominance and accompanying narcissism, rise to the surface in laissez-faire situations. A deference bias might exist elsewhere, perhaps in the East where humility is still culturally valued.

In some cultures there might even be a bias that everyone is equal or average, taking the middle path between dominant and deferential (in some egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies for instance(3)).

* Not mentioned in the very comprehensive and established Philosopher's Toolkit by Baggini & Fosl (2003) for instance.

1. Biosociology of Dominance and Deference. A Mazur (2005).

2. The Narcissism Epidemic. Living in the Age of Entitlement. J M Twenge, W K Campbell (2009).

3. An "everyone is average" bias seems probable in such societies from the following description: "Instead of denying the" (instinctive) "will to power, egalitarian societies know it all too well. They deal with it every day. In egalitarian societies, men trying to dominate others are systematically undermined, and male pride is frowned upon" (p 74). Our Inner Ape. F D Waal (2005).

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Butia capitata fruit edibility

Cherry-sized fruit of Butia capitata are moreish, tasting quite a bit like the drink Tang, perhaps because of fairly high vitamin C content. Fruit often fall to the ground once ripe and sometimes before they are ripe. I tried ripening a few off the tree inside, it appeared to work, at least to an extent.  Different bunches of fruit ripen at different times, so are available fresh, over quite a long period. The fruit does have fibers which can stay stuck in the teeth for several hours but which do not pose an obstacle to eating. These fibers probably explain why it is often made into a drink, with the fibers sifted out presumably. A reasonably good food plant but takes up a lot of room.

This tree started producing fruit about 14 years after planting in Wellington, New Zealand (hardiness zone 9.)

The frond stumps on the trunk of palms like Butia capitata are a handy place to insert (in this case edible) epiphytes. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Mitsuba self-sows in Wellington

The excellent Japanese perennial vegetable Mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica) self-sows in my Wellington, NZ, garden. It self-sows in full sun or full shade, much larger leaves in the shade. Self-sowing in moist soil or even on relatively dry slopes.

 Another Asian vegetable that self-sows here is the annual or biennial Water Pepper (Persicaria hydropiper) which has an interesting hot after-taste. So far only self-sowing in shallow water or moist sunny spots. Less productive and tasty than Mitsuba in my experience.