Monday, August 17, 2015

Enormous Elephant Ears


By the time you receive the paper we will be experiencing a marvelous cool wave. It is reported that the temperatures will reach the mid-seventies as a high on Wednesday… a singular delight and a true sign Fall is in the air.

This year the Elephant Ears appear to be the most robust many Summers and are providing a marvelous show. The amazing Elephant Ear (of the Colocasia family) has been in cultivation for over 28,000 years and because of this the exact origin of the plant has been lost. It has long been a major food crop in the warm climates of India, China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Polynesia, Africa, and South America. All parts of the plant are edible if they are thoroughly steamed or boiled to remove toxic calcium oxalate crystals. Anyone who has attended a traditional Hawaiian luau has eaten the cooked leaves and the corms are mashed into the popular poi.

Our bulbs were purchased at a popular nursery and planted once the soil had reached about 70 degrees. Planted the brick trough against the house facing North, they receive three hours of midday sun but are shaded by the entry for the rest of the day. Watering is paramount for growth so remember to water before wilt occurs, possibly three times a week.

The bulbs slept quietly for a bit then began to emerge with vigor with the first tender leaves followed by new ones each day. They seem to grow in breadth and height overnight, with many leaves over three feet in diameter … and still growing.

Rajah, the Peacock, enjoys their shade as he admires the handsome fellow he sees mirrored in the glass door… not the sharpest tool in the shed, he has no idea it is his own reflection.

It is wise to save the bulbs as they have adapted to your soil and will grow in size each year, eventually reaching the size of a basketball. Dig them following the first light frost that nips the leaves leaving about six inches at the top of each bulb, removing all the small tendrils which have grown over the season. After dusting off the soil, place them in dry peat moss in a closet or under a bed for about a month. Once they are completely dry, place them in a cool spot not subject to a freeze so they will remain dormant over the winter. Plant them again in the Spring for they provide a wonderful reason to rush to the garden each morning in August!