Have You Ever Eaten Lotus Fruit?

For the modern Greeks, the lotus fruit is the Japanese persimmon, which looks a lot like a large, smooth, hairless peach. I’ve seen it growing in gardens in the province of Lakonia in the Peloponnese, Greece. Personally, I’m not a fan of this particular lotus fruit, it’s dry and leaves your mouth feeling as though it really needs water. It tastes a little like vanilla.

Having tasted this fruit it is hard to believe that it was this that so enthralled Odysseus and his crew of adventurers. Of course, it is reasonable to suppose that the ancient Greek hero stayed close to his homeland, but it is unlikely, given the number of years it apparently took him to get home after the Trojan war.

It is much more likely that he travelled to Asia and encountered the sacred lotus. The sacred lotus, so Homer wrote in Book 9 of the Odyssey, caused Odysseus and his followers to forget the purpose of their journey, which is why some commentators have suggested that the lotus eaters partook of the opium poppy.

However, if you have a look at the seed pods you will see they resemble those of the opium poppy. Each pod holds about 24 seeds. In Cambodia, these are valued as a very tasty snack!

The lotus plant is also valued for its medicinal properties, as it contains nuciferine and aporphine, which are morphine-like substances. This indicates that the sleep of Lethe might well be induced if the plant is ingested. No wonder Odysseus too so long to get home.