Friday, August 24, 2012

Crop summary: Darmera peltata - Umbrella Plant or Indian Rhubarb

Years ago, on the Klamath River of northern California, I came across and later identified Darmera peltata, known as Umbrella Plant or Indian Rhubarb. The plant grows on rocks along rivers and in other wet places, putting out long stalks terminating in the center of large roundish leaves.
I felt excited when I learned that you can eat the leaf stalks, but I didn't have a chance to actually try them out until this summer. Plants for a Future says to peel the stalks and eat them raw or cooked. After a little trial and error, I determined that the basal portion of the stem has a lot of fiber, but still a soft, juicy core with a mild flavor and a lot of water. I pulled off the outer full-on fibrous layer, chewed on the inner parts, and wound up with fiber wads which I spat out or swallowed. Towards the top of each stalk, the outer fiber layer hadn't developed yet and I could eat the entire stalk without peeling, a very nice nibble. The very top inch or so of stalk has the same pliability, but tastes fairly bitter. Perhaps cooking would mitigate the bitterness; I didn't try cooking any of the stalks so can't say how that affects the flavor or tenderness.

I wouldn't grow Umbrella Plant in an urban setting with limited clean-water aquatic space; I would instead plant some aquatic or wetland root crops. But I would definitely consider Umbrella Plant for graywater areas where you wouldn't want to eat plant parts in contact with the soil anyway. And if I had a stretch of natural creek or river on larger acreage, I would experiment with it as a water edge plant in rocky areas.


Anonymous said...

I thought you had disappeared into the wilds of Hawaii. Have you chosen another path? Just curious as a random reader who has followed your evolution through this fantastic blog.

Norris said...

I have finally moved to Hawaii, yes! I'll be posting a little about that some time soon.