Taro Colocasia esculenta is a common name for several plants in the Araceae family which are used as vegetables for their corms(thickened underground stems), leaves, and leaf-stems (petioles).
Of these, Colocasia esculenta is the most widely cultivated, and the way it is used is discussed here. More specifically, this article describes the “dasheen” form of taro; another variety of taro is known as eddoe.
Taro corms for sale
Colocasia esculenta is thought to be native to Southern India and Southeast Asia, but is widely naturalised. It is a perennial, tropical plant primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, and as a leaf vegetable. It is a food staple in African,Oceanic and South Indian cultures and is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants. Colocasia is thought to have originated in the Indomalaya ecozone, perhaps in East India and Bangladesh, and spread by cultivation eastward into Southeast Asia,East Asia and the Pacific Islands; westward to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean Basin; and then southward and westward from there into East Africa and West Africa, whence to the Caribbean and Americas. It is known by many local names and often referred to as “elephant ears” when grown as an ornamental plant.
Geographic distribution of taro production
Taro can be grown in paddy fields where water is abundant or in upland situations where water is supplied by rainfall or supplemental irrigation. Taro is one of the few crops (along with rice and lotus) that can be grown under flooded conditions. This is due to air spaces in the petiole, which permit underwater gaseous exchange with the atmosphere. For a maximum dissolved oxygen supply, the water should be cool and flowing. Warm, stagnant water causes basal rotting. For maximum yields, the water level should be controlled so that the base of the plant is always under water.
Flooded cultivation has some advantages over dry-land cultivation: higher yields (about double), out-of-season production (which may result in higher prices), and weed control (which flooding facilitates). On the other hand, in flooded production systems taro requires a longer maturation period, investment in infrastructure, and higher operational costs, andmonoculture is likely.
Like most root crops, taro and eddoes do well in deep, moist or even swampy soils where the annual rainfall exceeds 2,500 mm. Eddoes are more resistant to drought and cold. The crop attains maturity within six to twelve months after planting in dry-land cultivation and after twelve to fifteen months in wetland cultivation. The crop is harvested when the plant height decreases and the leaves turn yellow. These signals are usually less distinct in flooded taro cultivation.
Harvesting is usually done by hand tools, even in mechanized production systems. First, the soil around the corm is loosened, and then, the corm is pulled up by grabbing the base of the petioles. The global average yield is 6.2 tones/hectare but varies according to the region. In Asia, average yields reach 12.6 tones/hectare.
Taro contains oxalic acid which forms raphides. It is reduced to safe levels by steeping cubed taro roots in cold water overnight and disposing of the water. Calcium oxalate is highly insoluble and contributes to kidney stones. It has been recommended to consume milk or other calcium-rich foods together with taro.
One of the largest taro growing areas in the Hawaiian Islands is on Kauaʻi, in the Lower Hanalei Valley
The corms, which have a light purple color due to phenolic pigments are roasted, baked or boiled, and the natural sugars give a sweet nutty flavor. The starch is easily digestible, and since the grains are fine and small it is often used for baby food. Young taro leaves and stems can be eaten after boiling twice to remove the acrid flavor and the leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.
In the Azores taro is known as inhame or inhame-coco and is commonly steamed with potatoes, vegetables and meats or fish. It is also consumed as a dessert after first being steamed and peeled, then fried in vegetable oil or lard, and finally sprinkled with sugar. Taro grows in the fertile land of the Azores, as well as in creeks that are fed by mineral springs. Through migration to other countries, the inhame is found in the Azorean diaspora.
In Bangladesh taro is a very popular vegetable known as kochu (কচু) or mukhi (মুখি). It is usually cooked with small prawns or the ilish fish into a curry, but some dishes are cooked with dried fish.
Its green leaves, kochu pata (কচু পাতা), and stem,kochu (কচু), are also eaten as a favourite dish and usually ground to a paste or finely chopped to make shak – but it must be boiled well beforehand. Taro stolons or stems, kochur loti (কচুর লতি), are also favoured by Bangladeshis and cooked with shrimps, dried fish or the head of the ilish fish. Taro is available, either fresh or frozen, in the UK and US in most Asian stores and supermarkets specialising in Bangladeshi or South Asian food. Also, another variety called maan kochuis consumed and is a rich source of vitamins and nutrients. Maan Kochu is pasted and fried to prepare a delicious food known as Kochu Bata.
In Lusophone countries, inhame (pronounced [ĩ ˈ ȷ̃ɐ̃mi], [ˈ ȷ̃ɐ̃mi] or [ĩˑˈɲɐ̃mi], literally “yam”) and cará are the common names for various plants with edible parts of the genera Alocasia, Colocasia (family Araceae) and Dioscorea (familyDioscoreaceae), and its respective starchy edible parts, generally tubers, with the exception of Dioscorea bulbifera, calledcará-moela (pronounced [kɐˈɾa muˈɛlɐ], literally, “gizzard yam”), in Brazil and never deemed to be an inhame. Definitions of what constitutes an inhame and a cará vary regionally, but the common understanding in Brazil is that carás are potato-like in shape, while inhames are more oblong.
In the “broad” lower class Brazilian Portuguese (this sociocultural variation is sometimes considered comparable to that ofAustralian English) of the hotter and drier Northeastern region, both inhames and carás are called batata (literally, “potato”). For differentiation, potatoes are called batata-inglesa (literally, “English potato”), a name used in other regions and sociolects to differentiate it from the batata-doce, “sweet potato”, ironic names since both were first cultivated by the indigenous peoples of South America, their native continent, and only later introduced in Europe by the colonizers.
Taros are often prepared like potatoes, eaten boiled, stewed or mashed, generally with salt and sometimes garlic as condiment, as part of a meal (most often lunch or dinner).
Taro (pinyin: yùtou or pinyin: yùnǎi, Cantonese 芋頭, Jyutping: wu6 tau4-2) is commonly used as a main course as steamed taro with or without sugar, as a substitute for other cereals, in Chinese cuisine in a variety of styles and provinces steamed, boiled or stir fried as a main dish and as a flavor enhancing ingredient. In Northern China it is often boiled or steamed then peeled and eaten with or without sugar much like a potato. It is commonly braised with pork or beef. It is used in the dim sum cuisine of southern China to make a small plated dish called taro dumpling as well as a pan-fried dish called taro cake. It is also shredded into long strips which are woven together to form a seafood birdsnest.
Taro cake is a delicacy traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year celebrations. In desserts it is used in tong sui, bubble tea, as a flavoring in ice cream and other desserts in China (e.g., Sweet Taro Pie). McDonald’s sells taro-flavored pies in China.
Several small loʻi or pondfields in which kalo (or taro) is being grown in theMaunawili Valley onOʻahu, Hawaiʻi. The ditch on the left in the picture is called an ʻauwai and supplies diverted stream water to theloʻi.
In Taiwan, taro is called 芋頭 (yùtóu) in Mandarin, or 芋仔 (ōo-á) in Taiwanese Hokkien. Taro is well-adapted to Taiwanese climate and can grow almost anywhere with minimal maintenance. Before the Taiwan Miracle made rice affordable to everyone, taro was one of the main staple foods in Taiwan. Nowadays taro is used more often in desserts. Supermarketvarieties range from about the size and shape of a brussels sprout to longer, larger varieties the size of a football. Taro chips are often used as a potato chip-like snack. Compared to potato chips, taro chips are harder and have a more nuttyflavor. Other popular traditional Taiwanese taro snacks are taro balls served on ice or deep-fried.
There are many taro plantations on the Cook Islands as the soil there is perfect for them. The root is eaten boiled, as is standard across Polynesia. Taro leaves are also eaten as a delicacy, cooked with coconut milk, onion and meat or fish.
In Costa Rica, taro is eaten in soups, as a replacement for potatoes, and as chips. It is known locally as tiquisque (also tiquizque).
In Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, taro is commonly known as arrow root, ggobe, or nduma in some local Bantu languages. It is usually boiled and eaten with tea or other beverages, or as the main starch of a meal. It is also cultivated in Malawi and Mozambique.
In Egypt, taro is known as Kolkas Golgas (Egyptian Arabic: قلقاس, The corms are larger than what would be found in North American supermarkets. After being peeled completely, it is cooked in one of two ways. It is cut into small cubes and cooked in beef broth with fresh coriander and chard and served as an accompaniment kolkas meat stew, and rice. Lemon is added.
Taro was consumed by the early Romans in much the same way the potato is today. They called this root vegetable colocasia. The Roman cookbook Apicius mentions several methods for preparing taro, including boiling, preparing with sauces, and cooking with meat or fowl. After the fall of the Roman Empire the use of taro dwindled in Europe. This was largely due to the decline of trade and commerce with Egypt, previously controlled by Rome. It is still important to note the Taro because when the Spanish and Portuguese sailed to the new world, they brought taro along with them. Taro has remained popular in the Canary Islands. Recently there has been renewed interest in exotic foods and consumption is increasing.
In Cyprus, taro has been in use since the time of the Roman Empire. Today it is known as kolokasi (κολοκάσι), which is similar to the name the Romans used:colocasia. It is usually sauteed with celery and onion with pork or chicken, in a tomato sauce – a vegetarian version is also available. “Baby” taro is called “poulles” on the island, and after being sauteed the vessel is decaramelised with dry red wine and coriander seeds, then served with freshly squeezed lemon.
In Greece, taro grows on Icaria. Icarians credit taro for saving them from famine during World War II. They boil it until tender and serve it as a salad.
Taro root is called ñame (which normally designates yams) in Canarian Spanish and is a common crop in the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands (Canary Islands, Spain).
Excavated Japanesesatoimo root (stems are cut before the plant is dug up): (1) Remaining stem from parent or seed satoimo, (2) Parent or seed satoimo, (3) Remaining stem from child satoimo, (4) Child satoimo, (5) Grandchild satoimo
A similar plant in Japan is called satoimo (里芋、サトイモ?, literally “village potato”). The “child” and “grandchild” corms (cormels, cormlets) which bud from the parent satoimo, are called koimo (子芋?) and magoimo (孫芋?), respectively, or more generally imonoko(芋の子?). Satoimo has been propagated in Southeast Asia since the late Jōmon period. It was a regional staple food before ricebecame predominant. The tuber, satoimo, is often prepared through simmering in fish stock (dashi) and soy sauce. The stalk, zuiki, can also be prepared a number of ways, depending on the variety.
In Lebanon, taro is known as “kilkass” and is mainly grown along the Mediterranean coast. The leaves and stems are not consumed in Lebanon and the variety grown produces round to slightly oblong tubers that vary in size from a tennis ball to a small cantaloupe. Kilkass is a very popular winter dish in Lebanon and is prepared in two ways: “kilkass with lentils” is a stew flavored with crushed garlic and lemon juice and “‘il’as (قلقاس) bi-tahini”. Another common method of preparing taro is to boil, peel then slice it into 1 cm thick slices, before frying and marinating in edible “red” sumac. In northern Lebanon, it is known as a potato with the name Borshoushi (El-Orse Borshushi). It is also prepared as part of a lentil soup with crushed garlic and lemon juice. The smaller variety is more popular due to its tenderness.
Taro is called gabi in the Philippines and is widely available throughout the archipelago. Its adaptability to marshland and swamps made it as one of the most common vegetable that is source for vegetable and starch food in the Philippines.The best varieties are Gabing itim(Black Taro), Binting Dalaga or White Taro and Dinggalan or Red stem Taro.Low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol; high in dietary fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese; the leaves, stems, and corms are all consumed and form part of the local cuisine. A popular recipe for taro is laing [ˈlaɪŋ] which is heavily inspired by pinangat, a dish that originated in the Tagalog andBicol Region. The dish’s main ingredients are taro leaves (at times including stems) cooked in coconut milk, and salted with fermented shrimp or fish bagoong. It is sometimes heavily spiced with red hot chilies called siling labuyo. Another dish in which taro is commonly used is the Philippine national stew, sinigang, although radish can be used if taro is not available. This stew is made with pork and beef, shrimp, or fish, a souring agent (tamarind fruit, kamias, etc.) with the addition of peeled and diced corms as thickener. The corm is also prepared as a basic ingredient for ginataan, a coconut milk and taro dessert or simply boiled it and serve as boiled gabi dipped in sugar and grated coconut. Gabi or Taro is perfect substitute for Rice .
In Pakistan, taro or eddoe or arvi is a very common dish served with or without gravy; a popular dish is arvi gosht, which includes beef, lamb or mutton. The leaves are rolled along with gram flour batter and then fried or steamed to make a dish called Pakora, which is finished by tempering with red chillies and carrom (ajwain) seeds.
In South Korea, taro is called toran (Korean: 토란: “egg from earth”), and the corm is stewed and the leaf stem is stir-fried. Taro roots can be used for medicinal purposes, particularly for treating insect bites. It is made into the Korean traditional soup toranguk (토란국). Taro stems are often used as an ingredient in yukgaejang(육개장).
Many varieties are recorded in Sri Lanka, several being edible, others being toxic to humans and therefore not cultivated. Edible varieties (kiri ala, kolakana ala, gahala, sevel ala) are cultivated for their corms and leaves. Sri Lankans eat corms after boiling them or making them into a curry with coconut milk. The leaves of only one variety (kolakana ala) are eaten.
In Thai cuisine, taro Thai: เผือก (pheuak) is used in a variety of ways depending on the region. Boiled taro is readily available in the market packaged in small cellophane bags, already peeled and diced, and eaten as a snack. Pieces of boiled taro with coconut milk are a traditional Thai dessert. Raw taro is also often sliced and deep fried and sold in bags as chips (เผือกทอด). As in other Asian countries, taro is a popular flavor for ice cream in Thailand.
Trinidad & Tobago
The leaves of the taro plant are used to make the Trinidadian variant of the Caribbean dish known as callaloo (which is made with okra, dasheen/taro leaves, coconut milk or creme and aromatic herbs) and it is also prepared similarly to steamed spinach. The root of the taro plant is often served boiled, accompanied by stewed fish or meat, curried, often with peas and eaten with roti, or in soups.
Taro is grown in the south coast of Turkey, especially in Mersin and Antalya. It is boiled in a tomato sauce or cooked with meat, beans and chickpeas.
taro leaf-stems (petioles) for sale at a market in California, 2009
In American Chinatowns, people often use taro in Chinese cuisine, though it is not as popular as in Asian and Pacific nations. Since the late 20th century, taro chips have been available in many supermarkets and natural food stores. In the 1920s, dasheen, as it was known, was highly touted by the Secretary of the Florida Department of Agriculture as a valuable crop for growth in muck fields. Fellsmere, Florida, near the east coast, was a farming area deemed perfect for growing dasheen. It was used in place of potatoes and dried to make flour. Dasheen flour was said to make excellent pancakes when mixed with wheat flour.
In Venezuela, taro is called ocumo chino or “chino” and used in soups and sancochos. Soups contain large chunks of several kinds of tubers, including ocumo chino, especially in the eastern part of the country, where West Indian influence is present. It is also used to accompany meats in “parrillas” (barbecue) or fried cured fish where yuca is not available. “Ocumo” is an indigenous name, and “chino” means Chinese, since people tend to give the “chinese” adjective to any produce that is considered “exotic”. “Ocumo” without the Chinese denomination is a tuber from the same family, but without taro’s inside purplish color. Ocumo is the Venezuelan name for malanga, so “ocumo chino” means “chinese malanga”. Taro is always prepared boiled. No porridge form is known in the local cuisine.
In Vietnam, there is a large variety of taro plants. One is called Khoai môn, which is used as a filling in spring rolls, cakes, puddings and sweet soup desserts, smoothies and other desserts. Taro is used in the Tết dessert chè khoai môn which is sticky rice pudding with taro roots. The stems are also used in soups such as canh chua. One is called Khoai sọ, which is smaller in size and more delicious than Khoai môn, and of course, more expensive than Khoai môn. Another more popular taro plants the roots grow in shallow waters and the stems and leaves above the surface of the water. This taro plants have saponins-like substances that make the endurable feeling of hot and itch in the mouth and throat. Northern farmers used to plant them to cook the stems and leaves to feed their hogs for their high speed of re-growth from their roots. After the cooking, the saponins in the soup of taro stems and leaves reduce to the level the trained hogs can eat. Nowadays, this practice is no longer widely popular in Vietnam agriculture. These taro plants are commonly called as khoai ngứa which literally means itchy potato.
Taro is consumed as a staple crop in West Africa, particularly in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. It is called cocoyam in Nigeria, Ghana and Anglophone Cameroon, andmacabo in Francophone Cameroon. Cocoyam is often boiled, fried, or roasted and eaten with a sauce. In Ghana, it substitutes for plantain in making fufu when plantains are out of season. It is also cut into small pieces to make a soupy baby food and appetizer called mpotompoto. It is also common in Ghana to find cocoyam chips (deep-fried slices, about 1 mm thick). Cocoyam leaves, locally called kontomire in Ghana, are a popular vegetable for local sauces such as palaver sauce andegusi/agushi stew. It is also commonly consumed in Guinea and parts of Senegal, as a leaf sauce or as a vegetable side, and is referred to as jaabere in the local Pulaar dialect.