March 11, 2017

Nang chong Stories : Cockscomb (Celosia) 鸡冠花

It is quite possible that this flower was brought over to Sarawak, and in particular Sibu, from the Fujian province by the pioneering Foochows. But many have also stated that this particular flower might have been brought by the Ming Nang or Hokkien people earlier.

I remember both my paternal and maternal grand parents planting them around the old wooden homesteads. The various Methodist Churches also had them growing outside in the church gardens, and/or in pots.

Then these flowers became "out of fashion" because chrysanthemums,roses, orchids, carnations, and other hybrid species came into the market. Even the bai yu lan or michela magnolia lost its value, as it is a big tree and residential areas become more crowded and homes have smaller gardens.

However a field of cockscomb is often a very attractive sight to any visitor. I wish our villages would again be covered by these lovely cockscombs because they are actually very easy to plant and the flowers do last for more than 2 weeks!!

In fact the cockscomb is a small genus of the edible and ornamental plants in the amaranth family. In our Foochow dialect the amaranth plant is Hern Chai. The flamed like flower heads are very pretty and because of its crested flower heads, it is called cockscombs. the others which have flame like flower heads, in yellow, orange and red colours, are not as fascinating.

 In Chinese traditional medicine, the cockscomb is used as a treatment for intestinal worms,mouth sores and eye problems,etc (Wikipedia) the leaves can be boiled and eaten as vegetables. They are said to be slightly diuretic. The leaves are also used as dressings for boils and sores. In fact in olden days, when Foochow farmers cut themselves with parang or axe, they had quickly chopped up some Hern Chai leaves or the Cockscomb leaves as dressings.

In Nigeria, their variety of cockscomb leaves are cooked as a vegetable called "soko yokoto" meaning "make husbands fat and happy"!!


Anonymous said...

Nice to know this. I grew up with my grandmother who liked to plant red cockscombs outside her fences...People recognised our house for these red flowers. Now that she is gone, we also don't have any more of those flowers. As you said, out of fashion flowers for some people.

Ensurai said...

Thank you for commenting. I grew up in Sibu and saw many of these potted cockscombs in Kampong Nyabor. The Primary Schools also planted a lot of them.

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