Sunday, July 03, 2022

Coffee Cups without the Coffee

Note: This entry is cross-posted on my new blog, Doctor Potato Head.

Many people know that my #CoffeeMaven priorities are more about the farmers than the coffee itself (though I love the coffee itself!). I use the tag #ThankTheFarmers on many of the words and images I share; this little story is an example of gratitude that extends to all kinds of farmers – not just the beloved cafeteros in my life.

Two of those farmers are Ron and Connie of Maribett Farm, with whom we have many kinds of connections, agricultural and otherwise. While helping us with some permaculture projects in our back yard, they recently left this gift on our back porch. They even sent the photos, since we were not home at the time.

The plant is Colocasia esculenta. It immediately reminded me of a plant I know as elephant ear, but I thought I was mistaken because this plant is pretty small, and the elephant ear I have seen in Nicaragua has individual leaves almost as big as I am. 

A quick internet search confirmed my original hunch, and browsing my Flickr albums of Nicaragua travels brought me to the comparison I was thinking of.


I think our farmer friends chose this plant because of the name used by the vendor: Coffee Cups. Even if they did not intend this, it was the first thing I noticed! This was the first time I had seen or heard that name. The gift is a great example of how my friends have helped me to develop my #CoffeeMaven identity – that of a completist who endeavors to learn about all possible aspects of coffee

The notes from the Proven Winners company mentions that the plant is toxic to both pets and humans, even though the Latin name of the species indicates that it is edible. In fact, Colocasia esculenta is a leading food crop throughout the tropics. The top is known as elephant ear, but the bottom is known as taro (malanga in Spanish), a root that is readily edible and resembles a potato.

It is, in fact, one of several tubers in the lineup of potato-esque roots from which the popular snack Terra Chips are made.

Lagniappe: Thirsty Plant

Long before I saw – and ate – this plant in Nicaragua, I had learned that it can be a problematic invasive plant, at least in one setting. When we took a glass-bottom boat tour of San Marcos Springs in Texas, we learned that hydrologists had calculated how much the Edwards Aquifer was losing through the evapotranspiration from the enormous leaves of plants that surrounded the spring-fed waterways along the escarpment. I do not remember the number, of course, but they were making comparisons to the water demand of a small city.


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