For Valentine’s Day I gave Leah four babies. Her babies are green and round and fuzzy, but no, they aren’t tennis balls! Her babies live underwater and come from Japan… by way of Amazon Prime. They’re called marimos, or Japanese moss balls, and by far they’re the strangest plants I’ve ever seen. There’s four of them, and though they vary in size, all resemble puff balls. Supposedly they’ll grow half an inch in diameter a year. They don’t flower, and they obviously don’t move on their own. They do move with the water though, and in a pond they’d just meander around. I think they’re pretty neat, and most importantly, so does Leah.
Now for the question you’re waiting for: are they edible? I’ve spent a lot of time researching this question, and without directly popping one of marimos into my mouth and finding out, the best I can say is “I’m not sure.” Despite being called “moss balls,” marimos are actually a type of algae. I lived in Korea for four years, and I swear we’d eat something similar to this from time to time. It’s really common in Korea to have algae in soup, and when I see Leah’s marimos I wonder what they’d be like boiled, with some fish or pork alongside shallots and cabbage. But these marimos are Leah’s, not mine, so up until now I’ve resisted.
This actually started as a joke. Once I wondered out-loud what marimos taste like, and Leah and a visiting friend both yelled in horror. By the way, though I hear algae’s nutritious, I actually hate the taste of it. Not to be confused with seaweed, however which is quite tasty. But back to that friend—she’s the one who introduced us to marimos, and hers live in a glass jar with gravel. Leah’s are in a large canning jar, and though it could be spruced up with things like sticks or snails or fish, the marimos seem to be content with life as-in. Leah’s also keeping her marimos together for now, and I like to think they’re keeping each other company.
How do marimos reproduce? Well, apparently you just pull them apart. There are videos of this all over Youtube, and the process is horrifying! But marimos don’t have a central seed or kernel and the process doesn’t hurt them. Now this reminds me of Leah’s other babies, her succulents. Earlier in the year she rescued two succulents abandoned in our mill’s lobby, and one never really came around so Leah tore all of its leaves off. I was horrified then, too! But then she put the leaves in dirt and she’s misting them and it looks like we’re going to have about fifty succulents soon. By the way, leave a comment if you have advice regarding succulent clippings.
When we moved into this apartment we had no foliage to speak of, but for Christmas I also gave Leah a present of four air plants. These guys are almost as weird as the marimos—they don’t have roots and you can just plop them onto anything. I guess they’re the opposite of marimos since they live in the air, but I feel like both types of plants in question are buddies. They’re all unique, and the air plants are currently sitting on sea urchin shells. So that gives all the plants a common, watery connection. Now, see how I personify plants? So there’s absolutely no way I could ever eat Leah’s babies (though if you’ve ever tried a marimo, tell me what you thought).
–Jeff and Leah