Friday, October 7, 2011

Ngau Kok

Those were the days.

Gone were the days we had to rely on mother nature to pass our time.
These days, the kids have 'canggih' mobiles to click SMSs, play angry birds, watch videos or getting themselves high on music in 3G.
In our time, if one remembers, we made for ourselves traditional 'toys' to keep ourselves thrilled. One of them 'oldies' was the spinning tops made out of a strange type of 'nut' known as Ngau Kok.

Also known as Bull's Horn or Goo Kuck (hokkien). A piece of string is tied to a 'joss stick' end between two Ngau Koks and is winded-up and pulled.

This spinning 'top' can spin for minutes on ends.
This is popular during the Mid-Autumn 'moon cake' festival. It is also eaten after boiling it and there are claims that it could help those who are suffering from the dreaded cancer.

Now, just where these 'tops' comes from? I was clueless until ten years ago, I discovered it still attached to a live plant in the famous Chachutak market in Bangkok, Thailand.

The actual name is Chinese water caltrop (Trapa bicornis).
More information can be obtained by Googling it.

Few years ago, we managed to buy some of these 'nuts' to try an experiment. Since it is from a type of water lily, we scattered it into our home pond. It sprouted!
These pictures were taken in 2006.

It sprouted from the top end.
Grew up with runners to reach to the surface. The stem of each leaf begins to bloat creating a 'ballast' similar to our common water hyacinth, thus floating up-right. The nut then rots away. When matured, the plant turn purplish-red in color and new 'nuts' soon occur. A healthy plant may produce up to 20 'nuts'.

In other parts of the world, this plants are treated as nuisance because it overgrows and clogged waterways and canals.
Try asking your friends if they know about the water caltrop. You would be surprised that some will tell you that it came from trees or beneath the ground!!

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