Friday, January 13, 2012

Ant nest tea

"would you like to try some of this?", Mei asks as i see a quiet smile pass her lips.
"what is it?", I reply as I've learned after the fried lung incident it pays to ask, or not, depending on ones mood for adventure.
As the clear plastic bag passes to my hand Mei says "take a look, what you think it is? My mum uses it"
It only took a second in my hand before I realized this was something to write home about, "Woa ! Myrmecodium!" I startled.
"it's ants nest sayang" Mei says
"yes" I reply,"it looks like ant plant, a plant that grows and as it grows the stem swells and creates a home for the ants"
Later in the kitchen I ask more.
"my Aunt was given it in (West) Papua" Mei says," it's very expensive".
"how much?" I ask
"I'm not sure, it's my aunt from Ciputat"
"what's it used for?" I query
"duh" I laugh smiling
"many kinds of disease, gout, rheumatism, many" she adds
Meis mum says something
"all kinds of disease"
I joke "everything but death huh?", laughing
"do you have it in Australia?" Mei asks, "do they drink it there?"
"No I don't think so, it's a protected plant", i explain
"It only grows near cooktown and north on cape York where we visited, I imagine there's many more kinds in Papua."

The hard dry reddish brown slices show the intricate caverns that and plants create to lure their boarders, ant colonies that take refuge inside and ferociously protect their new home from herbivores and other threats. The ants waste products are absorbed by special tissues inside the nest.
There are many genera that are myrmycophilous (ant loving) across the tropics but the genus that sprung to mind with this specimen was Myrmedcodia, a genus in the Rubiaceae, the same alkaloid rich genus family that gives us coffee, quinine, ipecac syrup, as well as flower like Gardenia.
If the tea is indeed a remedy for inflammatory diseases like rheumatism and gout then it is not surprising as the family is on the hot list for interesting pharmacologically active drugs.
Myrmecodia is difficult in cultivation as without it's ant Helpers it is prone to attack by various insects and pathogens.

Now to taste the tea...
The material is fresh and looks of good quality.

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