Found in ponds, wetlands, marshes, oceans and rivers around the world, aquatic plants spend the majority of their lives either fully or partially submerged in water. Many aquatic plants are edible and provide some of the same valuable nutrients found in leafy green vegetables like spinach. These plants can often be purchased fresh at farmers markets, or you can grow them in your backyard as long as the conditions are right.
Native to the British Isles, where it inhabits the banks of ponds and rivers, aquatic mint (Mentha aquatica) is a hardy perennial with edible, aromatic leaves. A full-grown plant is typically 1 1/2 feet tall and produces purple flowers during midsummer to late fall. The plant’s strong peppermint flavor makes it a useful herb for sauces, healthy drinks, garnishes and other foods. Leaves are consumed either dry or raw.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is a popular ingredient in fresh salads and garnishes that thrives in garden ponds, especially those with a flowing current. This plant is easy to grow and contains high concentrations of calcium, folic acid, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Watercress is highly adaptable but prefers water that is slightly alkaline. In addition to its crunchy, leafy greens, watercress produces small white flowers between March and October.
Native to swampy, tropical areas of Southeast Asia, taro (Colocasia esculenta), or elephant ear, is often considered the “potato of the tropics” because of its edible, potato-like tubers. Like potatoes, taro tubers can be baked, fried, steamed, boiled or mashed. Taro is a hardy, wetland plant that can grow in water up to a foot deep and thrives in consistently wet soil. The plant’s large elephant ear-like leaves also make it a popular ornamental foliage plant.
Lotus (Nelumbo) refers to a large group of attractive and edible aquatic plants that grow in ponds in many parts of the world. Lotus tubers, seeds and leaves are edible, and its seeds are popular ingredients in many types of Asian breads and starchy foods. Lotus plants float on the water surface and produce gorgeous flowers ranging from paper white to pale yellow to deep magenta. The lotus is considered a sacred plant in Asian religious traditions.
About the Author
Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.