The rhizome can be up to 4 feet (120 cm) long, and 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) wide, with 2 to 6 segments, depending on the length of the rhizome. The segments will be 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) long. Larger rhizomes are produced if the flower buds above water are nipped off.
The outside skin is a dark reddish brown; inside, it is creamy white. When sliced, its cross-section is remiscent of a wagon wheel owing to air pockets running throughout its length. It has as a stringy sap.
Lotus Root is cultivated in special ponds that are drained to harvest them. The root is very fragile, so it is often sprayed with hoses to clean rather than scrubbed.
It is normally harvested from mid summer to late winter.
Lotus Root has a taste reminiscent of coconut, though it will absorb other tastes during cooking.
It stays crisp when cooked. Don’t expect it to become soft, however you cook it, though some varieties may be crunchier than others.
Lotus Root can be:
- eaten raw or cooked. Young ones are often eaten raw; more mature ones are usually cooked;
- dried and ground into a starch;
- bought fresh, dried, canned or candied;
- used in savoury or sweet dishes;
- stir-fried, battered and deep-fried, boiled, steamed, roasted, pickled, etc.
If you are buying fresh Lotus Root, choose ones with no soft or dark spots. When slicing fresh Lotus Root, old ones will have a dark brown or black ring around them.
Have acidulated water handy before peeling or slicing, as it will discolour fast when its inside hits the air.
Scrub fresh ones with a brush, and wash under running water. Cut out any small dark spots, and scrape the skin off. Discard any “joint” sections where one segment joins another.
Drain and rinse canned Lotus Root before using.
Water chestnut, jicama.
To store fresh ones, wash and scrub. Cut off ends about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) from segment joints. Put in a sealed plastic bag with water and store in refrigerator for up to a week.