Cacomitl (Tigridia pavonia) | Edible ornamental | Root

Cacomitl (Tigridia pavonia) is a common garden flower, better known as tiger flower or shell flower.  You may have purchased bulbs to grow as an ornamental.  Those bulbs are also edible and, in my opinion, they are one of the most delicious of edible ornamental bulbs.  As is often the case, I am following the lead of Rhizowen Radix in using its Aztec name, cacomitl, appropriately chosen because they were probably the last people to give this species much use as a food plant.  In this regard, it is similar to dahlia, a native Mexican crop that is regarded primarily as an ornamental, but also has a history as a food crop.

(As with any ornamental bulbs, you should not run right over to your local garden center and buy some to taste test.  Because they are not commonly regarded as edibles, they are likely to be coated in pesticides and other chemicals.  Probably best to grow them out for at least one season before eating.)

The bulbs must be cooked, generally by baking or boiling.  They have a dry texture and sweet flavor, somewhat reminiscent of sweet potato.  They are rather small, but size can probably be improved with continued selection.  Luther Burbank worked on cacomitl, but as far as I know, none of his varieties are extant.  That may be an indication that improving yield is difficult.  Of course, it may also just be the normal result of trying to popularize poorly known food plants.  People don’t take to new foods easily.

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