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Definition: lotus from The Macmillan Encyclopedia

Any of several different water plants. The sacred lotus of ancient Egypt was probably Nymphaea lotus, a sweet-scented white night-flowering water lily with broad petals, or N. caerulea, a blue-flowered species. The sacred Indian lotus, Nelumbo nucifera (family Nelumbaceae), has roselike pink flowers and its seeds, called lotus nuts, are eaten raw or in soups. The genus Lotus contains about 70 species of herbs, including the birdsfoot trefoils.


Summary Article: LOTUS from Cambridge World History of Food

There are about 90 species of the water-lily family (Nymphaeaceae), many of which have served as food. The “sacred lotus” (Nelumbo nucifera), for example, is a perennial aquatic plant of India that was carried to China and to Egypt, where it was consumed at least 4,000 years ago. The poor in Egypt frequently have eaten the seeds and rhizome of the Egyptian lotus (Nymphaea lotus), boiled, dried, and ground into flour. Native Americans employed the yellow American marsh lotus (Nelumbo lutea) in much the same fashion, and the women would gather the roots of plants of the genus Nuphar from the lairs of beavers and muskrats that had collected them for their own use. The Chinese have eaten the rhizome of their pink lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) since ancient times and have used lotus leaves for wrapping food. In India, lotus is employed in curries, and all Asians appreciate its crunchy texture and its appearance. The tuberous roots have air tunnels, so that, when sliced, the crisp round looks like a piece of Swiss cheese or - perhaps a better description - a lacy-patterned snowflake. Lotus roots are sliced, chopped, and grated for soups, salads, and stir-frying.

Common names and synonyms: American marsh lotus, blue lotus, blue water lily, Chinese pink lotus, Egyptian lotus flower, Hindu sacred lotus, Libyan lotus, lotus root, water lily, water-lily tuber.

© Cambridge University Press 2000

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