Amorphophallus and its edible beetles
On the way back after a successful seed expedition, we found the flower of Amorphophallus paeoniifolius. This plant is common in Chiang Mai, but mostly you just see the green leaves, and only during the rainy season. Like gingers it is totally absent during the dry season, although sometimes you see the fruits.
Most parts of this plant are edible, but only if you know how to cook them. Interestingly, today we saw 78 pollinating Scarabaeidae beetles (Peltonotus sp.), very active with their orgy. Den, a Dokmai Garden gardener from a Karen-speaking tribe in Tak province, pointed at the flower and remarked “aroi” (delicious)! I thought he meant the flower, so I took pictures, and when I thought we were done, he simply brushed down the beetles into the bottom of the flower, wrung it up and carried it like a giant ice-cream cone.
Back at Dokmai Garden, he cleaned the beetles in water, and then he fried them for two minutes, adding only fish sauce and a pinch of salt. The pleasant odour made us hungry. Den removed head, prothorax, the wing cases and the legs before offering a beetle to me. He did not do that for himself, just ate the complete beetle. Therefore I tried the same, although removing the legs. The beetles were really tasty, reminding of hazelnuts.
Now, the odour of the flower is like carrion, attracting carrion beetles for its pollination. Therefore I guess these beetles may have visited something disgusting before. Lunch was four hours ago, and I am still OK.