Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Name This Plant: Celosia "Twisted"

Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana

I first saw this plant in Ghana at the Cocoa Research Institute and snapped this picture. It did not occur to me that I could do a Name This Plant with it until I happened upon the same plant in Whole Foods just a few weeks back and was provided the name. Otherwise it would have been hard to google red squiggly flower and find the name.

As it turns out, it is possible it hails from East Africa where it is known in Swahili as mfungu. But I do not remember running into any while we were in Kenya. It also appears to grow back home in Indiana where it is called cocks comb, but I do not remember having seen it there before either.

This particular variety of celosia is know as "twisted." It appears the more common variety looks like this:

Surprisingly, in addition to being decorative, celosia is also edible. According to Wikipedia:
Celosia argentea var. argentea or Lagos spinach (a.k.a. quail grass, Soko, Celosia, feather cockscomb) is a broadleaf annual leaf vegetable. It grows widespread across Mexico, where it is known as "Velvet flower", northern South America, tropical Africa, the West Indies, South, East and Southeast Asia where it is grown as a native or naturalized wildflower, and is cultivated as a nutritious leafy green vegetable. It is traditional fare in the countries of Central and West Africa, and is one of the leading leafy green vegetables in Nigeria, where it is known as ‘soko yokoto’, meaning "make husbands fat and happy". In Spain it is known as "Rooster comb" because of its appearance.
Clearly, its the leaves and not the flowers that are being eaten. It also appears to have many medicinal purposes.

So now you know.

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