Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The large, umbrella-leaved, waxy, yellow-flowered water chinquapin, or yellow lotus, is a true lotus related to the sacred lotus of India. It's a plant that was revered by Native Americans and adopted by early European-Americans for its culinary uses. All parts of water chinquapin are edible. The water chinquapin's long thick tubers, when cut open, resemble potatoes in both appearance and flavor. Young leaves and shoots were often boiled and eaten and the young seeds could be eaten either raw or cooked. I once read that the hard, black, half inch diameter seeds of water chinquapin could even be popped like popcorn. Don't try it; I did. Perhaps I took the wrong approach, but I tried popping several of these seeds with a little butter in the same manner as popcorn. At first, nothing happened. Then, all of a sudden there was a barrage of violent explosions as these seeds burst with incredible force. No, they didn't puff up like popcorn. Yes, they were tasty with a nutty flavor. No, I wouldn't recommend repeating the experience. Try the still-green seeds if you'd like; they're akin to a large green sweet pea.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.