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Lotus Root – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Jul 23, 2021

What is the lotus root?

Lotus root is the edible rhizome (root) of the lotus plant, a medicinal plant scientifically known as Nelumbo nucifera. The lotus root is oblong in shape with rounded edges and appears dark brown due to its mud. Scraping off the dirt reveals a light brown skin that looks almost grayish.

When you slice the root cross-sectional, you’ll notice creamy white flesh with a lattice-like design, making the vegetable ideal as garnishes. The holes in the interior of the lotus root are actually its air canals that run lengthwise from top to bottom. Its crunchy flesh with a mildly sweet flavor is ideal for soups, stews, stir-frys, salads, and stuffed dishes. Some restaurants and foodies also swear by deep-frying it as you would with potato fries.

Where did lotus root originate from?

The origins of the lotus root can be traced to Asia before it made its way to Ancient Egypt. In the modern era, the lotus root and the lotus plant are highly popular in East Asia, particularly China and Japan. In Chinese cuisine, the lotus root is referred to as Lian Ou. Meanwhile, the Japanese call it Kinpira Renkon. The lotus root is widely grown in China, Japan, Indonesia, India, and the Philippines.

What are the benefits of eating lotus root?

The lotus root is densely packed with nutrients such as:

  • Dietary fiber
  • Potassium
  • Protein
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Thiamin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Riboflavin
  • Phosphorus
  • Niacin
  • Copper

How is lotus root grown?

The lotus plant grows in sunny, swampy environments such as ponds, lakes, marshes, and flooded fields. As the lotus root is planted underground, the soil must be well-fertilized to provide sufficient nutrients. As the plant matures, the lotus roots grow in groups of 3–5 that are interconnected by smaller roots. After 5–6 months, large leaves float on the water surface, marking the readiness of the roots for harvest.

When is lotus root in season?

The lotus root is in season all year round. You can get it fresh at your local grocery stores, Asian food stores, and farmers’ markets. Freeze-dried and canned options are usually available too. You can search for lotus roots near you via Instacart.

What should I look for when buying lotus root?

When buying lotus roots, choose those with:

  • A firm texture
  • Smooth, unblemished skin

You can easily shop for lotus root via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to share with your Instacart shopper specific preferences or directions on choosing quality lotus roots.

How to store lotus root

If you don’t anticipate using lotus roots in your dishes anytime soon, store them in their raw form, either whole or sliced. Uncut lotus roots kept in a cool, dry area usually last the longest (roughly 2 weeks). To keep the vegetables from browning after being sliced, rinse them in lemon juice or vinegar before cooking. For cooked lotus roots, they will last for a few days in the fridge.

How to tell if lotus root is bad

There are 4 easy ways to tell if your lotus root has gone bad:

  • Examine its exterior: Exposure to warm and moist environments causes mold and mildew to grow on the lotus root’s skin, causing it to go bad.
  • Check its interior: Slice the lotus root open to check the color of its flesh—a light pink indicates freshness. If the flesh appears yellow, purple, or brown, it means the vegetable is no longer edible.
  • Test its firmness: Crisp lotus roots are firm to the touch on the outside and inside. If you’ve cut the root open and it feels mushy on the inside, it’s time to throw it away.
  • Inhale its scent: Fresh lotus roots give off a subtle sweet scent, while spoiled roots will smell sour once you’ve cut into them.

Notice your lotus roots have gone bad? Replace them with fresh ones via Instacart.

What can I substitute for lotus root?

Even though lotus roots are available year-round, they aren’t commonly found in most grocery stores (except for Asian supermarkets and food stores). If the recipe calls for lotus root, but you don’t have any on hand, try substituting it with root vegetables such as:

  • Jicama: It is a root vegetable that’s also known as the Mexican turnip. Its subtle flavor and crunchy texture make it a great alternative to lotus root.
  • Water chestnut: Freshwater chestnuts pack a punch in crunchiness, although they taste sweeter and fruitier than the lotus root.
  • Jerusalem artichoke: This root vegetable offers a starchy, mildly flavored bite. Paired with a hearty crunch, the Jerusalem artichoke is another crowd favorite for substituting lotus roots.
  • Salsify: This is another root vegetable that’s commonly known as the oyster root due to its similar flavor profile. Its white flesh and satisfying crunch make it a shoo-in when lotus root isn’t readily available.
  • Burdock root: The burdock root (also called gobo) has a crispy texture. Its slightly sweet, earthy taste is reminiscent of the lotus root.

Spruce up your meals with lotus root

Lotus roots are a great addition to your dishes, whether it’s used as the main ingredient or a beautiful garnish. They are also easy to shop for and in season throughout the year. If you’d like to try the lotus root’s delicate flavor firsthand, use Instacart to shop for fresh produce near you.

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