Nelumbo nucifera, known by a number of names including Indian Lotus, Sacred Lotus, Bean of India, or simply Lotus, is a plant in the Nelumbonaceae family. Botanically, Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) may also be referred to by its former names, Nelumbium speciosum (Willd.) or Nymphaea nelumbo. This plant is an aquatic perennial. Under favorable circumstances its seeds may remain viable for many years, with the oldest recorded lotus germination being from that of seeds 1300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China.
The distinctive dried seed heads, which resemble the spouts of watering cans, are widely sold throughout the world for decorative purposes and for dried flower arranging.
The flowers, seeds, young leaves, and “roots” (rhizomes) are all edible. In Asia, the petals are used sometimes for garnish, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food, not frequently eaten (for example, as a wrapper for zongzi). In Korea, the leaves and petals are used as a tisane. Yeonkkotcha (연꽃차) is made with dried petals of white lotus and yeonipcha (연잎차) is made with the leaves. Young lotus stems are used as a salad ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. The rhizome (called ǒu (藕) in pinyin Chinese, ngau in Cantonese, bhe in Hindi, renkon (レンコン, 蓮根 in Japanese), yeongeun (연근) in Korean) is used as a vegetable in soups, deep-fried, stir-fried, and braised dishes and the roots are also used in traditional Asian herbal medicine. Petals, leaves, and rhizome can also all be eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission (e.g., Fasciolopsis buski): it is therefore recommended that they be cooked before eating.
Lotus rootlets are often pickled with rice vinegar, sugar, chili and/or garlic. It has a crunchy texture with sweet-tangy flavours. In Asian cuisine, it is popular with salad, prawns, sesame oil and/or coriander leaves. Lotus roots have been found to be rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, while very low in saturated fat.
The stamens can be dried and made into a fragrant herbal tea called liánhuā cha (蓮花茶) in Chinese, or (particularly in Vietnam) used to impart a scent to tea leaves. The lotus seeds or nuts (called liánzĭ, 蓮子; or xian liánzĭ, 鲜莲子, in Chinese) are quite versatile, and can be eaten raw or dried and popped like popcorn, phool makhana. They can also be boiled until soft and made into a paste, or boiled with dried longans and rock sugar to make a tong sui (sweet soup). Combined with sugar, lotus seed paste becomes one of the most common ingredients used in pastries such as mooncakes, daifuku, and rice flour pudding.