1: The jade-green arrow-shaped leaves is an auspicious
sign in Chinese Culture as it signifies continuous improvement.
New Year is around the corner and arrowheads will once again make
their appearance in the vegetable vendor's basket. The bulb-like
corms of the arrowhead, which serve as an underground storage
organ for the plant, are usually imported from China for the festive
arrowhead is a member of the Alismataceae family. It is a semi-aquatic
plant that is botanically known as Sagittaria sagittifolia.
Unlike other Sagittaria species, the arrowhead we are familiar
with rarely flowers. The plant is native to China and Japan where
they are cultivated in the large scale. It's attractive, jade
green arrow-shaped leaves point skywards and to the Chinese, this
is an auspicious sign as it signifies continuous improvement .
importantly, the pointed end of the corm resembles the genitalia
of a baby boy and to the Chinese, nothing is more important to
being able to pass down the family name than to having tonnes
of riches but with no heir to inherit your fortune or business.
The Chinese believe that one needs to perform countless wholesome
actions and accumulate many merits in our past lives before you
are granted sons in the present life. Parents will cultivate arrowheads
for newly wed couples hoping that they will rise to the ranks
of the grandparents in the same year. It is no wonder many Chinese
plant the corms to herald the New Year!
easiest way to grow the arrowhead is via its corms which I believe
have already hit the market by the time you read this article.
Rush to the wet market now before all the good ones are snapped
up by kiasu Singaporeans. Arrowhead corms usually arrive in Singapore
in around a month before Chinese New Year. Sometimes you may be
able to buy ready-to-grow corms at the vegetable stall. The experienced
vegetable vendor would have anticipated the last minute demand
and began to soak some corms to initiate root and shoot growth
so as to be able to supply to these customers. But growing them
yourselves is very easy and economical as there is no need to
foot the extra for a full grown plant. Corms are cheap! Fortunately,
a month's time is all that you need to grow a pot of arrowhead
plants showing luxuriant growth with large arrow-shaped leaves
held up by 30cm petioles!
2 (above left): CORM of the Year for 2006!
Figure 3 (above right): Succulent corm with no yellow
or brown spots
Figure 4 (below left): A green healthy growing tip.
Figure 5 (below right): Some remains attached to the
base of the corm.
first step to success is to select healthy succulent corms (Figure
2) - ensure you choose those that are not injured or rotten. Do
not use corms that have brownish or yellowish spots on their surfaces
(Figure 3) and bases.
make sure the growing tip is green, rigid (Figure 4) and is not
broken or bruised. This is where the FIRST leaf or where LIFE
will appear. It will be very inauspicious if the corm fails to
sprout which I will not elaborate further for obvious reasons.
have to make sure there are some remains attached to the base
of the corm (Figure 5). Do not select flat base corms. I have
experienced cases where the corms crack at their base and new
ones have to be bought during the eleventh hour for replacement.
Cracked corms are again inauspicious. The remains will rot away
naturally as the corm grows.
6 - 9 (Above):
Sometimes, the offshoot is hidden.
am not teaching you to be superstitious. I always select corms
with some offsets attached (Figures 6-9). Not all corms will have
offsets. If you are lucky to find one or two, quickly grab those.
These are the gems. Not only your daughter-in-laws will bear you
sons, but also your great daughter-in-laws and great great daughter-in-laws
etc. Your family tree will flourish and there will always be continuous
incense at the altar offered by your descendants.
select the smaller corms over the bigger ones (Figure 10) as the
former is easier to sprout and is more vigorous. Leaves are of
the same size regardless of the size of the corms. I have waited
for close to 3 weeks before they start to sprout and you can imagine
how pressurising it is.
10 (above left): The smaller corm on the right is flavoured
over the bigger brothers.
Figure 11 (above right): Fill the pot with substrate
till the neck of the corm. Top up with water till all the
corms are submerged including the growing tip. The corms were
potted on 31 Dec 2005, about a month from Chinese New Year.
next thing to do is to pot up the corms using either soil or water
as the growing media. There are two options: soil or water. If
you intend to grow the arrowhead past Chinese New Year, it is
advisable to grow it in soil. The $2 top soil sold in most nursery
centres will do the job. It is not necessary to purchase aquatic
soil. Some people even use soil straight from their gardens and
obtain good results if not better. For containers, you can use
an ornate ceramic or terracotta urn, a fiber glass trough or even
a recycled plastic pail. Top up the soil to a depth of about 15cm
deep and plant the corms at a depth just enough to cover their
necks. Fill the entire set-up with water to a level of about 10cm
from the soil surface.
you only intend to grow the arrowhead plant just for the festive
season, you can plant the corms in just plain glass marbles and
smooth pebbles. Put an inch of substrate at the bottom and pot
up enough to cover slightly above the neck of the (Figure 11)
corm for better stability to avoid top heaviness as the corms
establishes. Adding substrates after the plant has matured will
not help to anchor the plant anymore. It is therefore crucial
to lay a good foundation at the beginning by giving a generous
helping of substrate depending on the size of your pot. It is
important to note that corms will float in water and hence you
would need to weigh it down using several large pieces of pebble
to secure the corms in place. Forget about using brown LECA balls
(commonly used in hydroculture) as they are not heavy enough to
weigh down the corms.
POINT TO NOTE
of us soak the corms in water to ensure they produce some roots
first before potting them up. This method is not recommended.
This is because corms may float in an awkward position and the
growing tip will, as a result, grow at a slanted angle. One will
have a difficult time trying to plant the corm upright thereafter.
Too many adjustments may bruise the tip and in extreme cases may
break it. Thus it is best to pot up the corms immediately without
disturbing the growing tip too much. Once the growing tip is broken,
the Chinese believe that your son will become a daughter.
method you use to grow your plants, make sure the substrate is
fine and smooth and does not contain anything that is sharp. This
will prompt you to exclude sand and volcanic rocks from the growing
mixture. The sharp edges can cut the corm's surface thereby injuring
it. The injury then invites infection that can cause the corm
to rot. Rotting of the corm one of the chief causes of collapse
and premature death of the plant - something certainly not welcomed
during the festive season.
the corms in a brightly lit place. Do not expose them to direct
sun or the young leaves will burn.
to watch out for mosquito breeding. For plants that are permanently
grown in garden soil, it is advisable to rear a few guppies to
gobble up larvae. Try not to feed them too frequently as this
will discourage the fishes from eating the larvae. If you grow
your plants in container of pebbles, do change the water and rinse
the root zone thoroughly once the water turns cloudy.
the plants grow taller, it may become necessary to stake them.
Try to shelter the plants from strong winds as the succulent leaf
stalks snap easily. Leaf edges will turn brown when the location
is too windy. Cut away any yellowing leaves. Feeding is usually
not necessary - the supply of nutrients provided by the corm is
the plant matures usually after 3 weeks of planting, it will grow
thick anchor roots to support the plant. The anchor roots also
double up as feeding roots and during this stage of growth, the
corms will decay slowly. Depending on the depth that you have
potted the corms and the amount of substrate you use in the initial
potting stage, the plant may or may not collapse. If they do,
staking is required and usually they will not do well since their
soft stems may have already snapped at the corm level. The soil
alternative may prove to be better. By the time the plant deteriorates,
new year is almost ending and is a matter of time before you throw
can continue to grow the soil-potted arrowhead after Chinese New
Year and who knows, they may produce little corms for you.
sliced corms when fried taste heavenly good. Better than potato
chips. After you have tasted this, We doubt you will like your
potato chips anymore. The interior of the starchy corm is cream-coloured
and is peeled, sliced and fried which are best consumed while
watching your favourite television programmes during the new year.
Corms should be sliced as thinly as possible to enhance its crunchiness
when fried. As the corms are very starchy and tend to stick to
one another when left for too long, it is best to lay all the
slices individually on a tray etc before throwing them in the
most time consuming part is the frying process. You have to slowly
wait for the slices to turn from cream to a golden yellow colour.
They burn very easily just in a split second if you are too slow
and full concentration is therefore demanded when frying these
chips. During frying, you have to constantly stir the chips to
prevent them from sticking to one another.