I was surprised to find out that one of my favorite landscaping plants was actually edible. Canna lilies are native to South America but have been hybridized and are found in household gardens around the world. I like canna lilies for a number of reasons. They give a tropical atmosphere to your garden with broad leaves and colorful blossoms and come in a variety of colors. They are a perennial plant so that in our region they die back in the cold season and grow back in the Spring. And now I have more reasons to like them because I can use some portions to cook with and other portions to eat.
The prominent edible part of the canna lilie is the root which is a rhizome that is similar to cattail roots that contain starch. And, like cattail roots, they can be mashed into a pulp to remove the fiber to collect the starch for drying and later ground into a flour. They can be eaten raw but you can treat them like potatoes and bake or boil them too.
The leaves are broad and rather large and can be used like banana leaves to wrap foods for steaming or pit cooking. The young shoots of canna lilies are eaten as a vegetable , however, the blossoms are said to be not edible. The fiber of the stalks have been used as a jute substitute for cordage.
Although these plants may not be indigenous to your area, it’s good to know that they are a readily available edible landscape plant that can be a reserve food source in an emergency situation.