I came across this book for the first time in Singapore Botanic Gardens’ staff library. Entitled ‘Buried Treasures – Tasty Tubers of the World’ is a book in a series published by Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This book is largely a compilation of chapters written by several authors. It started with a description of the various types of underground storage organs commonly eaten which then led to the next chapter which wrote on the history of how some of these plants became important and got domesticated by Man. The third chapter was the one that left the deepest impression in me as a gardener, as it featured the profiles of a total of 31 different plants. The fourth chapter that logically followed third one was one on how to cook and eat these plants. The remaining chapters touched on foraging for wild underground vegetables and where one can obtain them to grow via various commercial sources but sadly, they were all US-based. One can also find some general information on how to propagate these plants classified on the characteristic of underground storage organ.
More on the third chapter – Encyclopedia of Edible Tubers (not correct to say they are all tubers!)… Most Asians would be familiar with the following geophytes - taro (Colocasia esculenta), yam (Dioscorea alata), water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis), sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), cassava (Manihot esculenta), lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), yam bean (Pachyrhizus erosus), arrowhead (Sagittaria trifolia var. sinensis) and potato (Solanum tuberosum). This book has these and more to offer. The rather comprehensive range of vegetables presented in the book impressed me a great deal – many of which are largely unknown to me as an Asian who lives in this part of South East Asia. I must say that I got to know and add more plants, especially the Andean species into my ”mental database” by picking up and reading this book. The gardener will get to read more on the ornamental attributes, growing tips, propagation means, climate requirements, basic cooking methods and nutritional values of each of these geophytes.
The information presented in this book is largely engaging and interesting. Besides the misleading titles of all the chapters, the glaring title printed across the front cover did a disservice to this otherwise great book – not all the plants mentioned in this book are tubers (note – Buried Treasures – Tasty Tubers of the World) and this is somewhat not expected of a publication from a botanic garden! Luckily, this publication corrected and saved itself by having a more appropriate running title overleaf – how to grow and enjoy root vegetables, tubers, rhizomes and corms, as well as, with the inclusion of a more detailed discussion on how each of these plant parts, based on their morphology are classified into each category.