Taro Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae (unranked): Angiosperms (unranked): Monocots Order: Alismatales Family: Araceae Subfamily: Aroideae Tribe: Colocasieae Genus: Colocasia Species: C. esculenta
Variety: esculenta Trinomial name Colocasia esculenta esculenta
Taro // is a common name for the corms and tubers of several plants in the family Araceae (see Taro (disambiguation)). Of these, Colocasia esculenta is the most widely cultivated, and is the subject of this article. More specifically, this article describes the 'dasheen' form of taro; another variety is called eddoe.
Taro is native to southeast Asia. It is a perennial, tropical plant primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, and as a leaf vegetable and is considered a staple in African, Oceanic and Asian cultures. It is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants. Colocasia is thought to have originated in the Indo-Malayan region, perhaps in eastern India and Bangladesh, and spread eastward into Southeast Asia, eastern Asia, and the Pacific islands; westward to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean; and then southward and westward from there into East Africa and West Africa, whence it spread 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.
Top Taro Producers - 2009
(million metric tons)
Nigeria 4.4 China 1.7 Cameroon 1.7 Ghana 1.5 Papua New Guinea 0.3 World Total 11.3
Taro can be grown in paddy fields where water is abundant or in upland situations where watering is supplied by rainfall or by supplemental irrigation. Taro is one of the few crops (along with rice and lotus) that can be grown under flooded conditions. This is possible due to air spaces in the petiole which permit gaseous exchange with the atmosphere under water. For having maximum dissolved oxygen, water should be cool and flowing. Warm and 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 the dry-land cultivation. They have higher yields (about double), out-of-season production is possible which might result into higher prices and flooding is good in controlling weeds. On the other hand in flooded production system taro needs a longer maturation period, investment in infrastructure and operational costs are higher, and monoculture is likely. Like most root crops, taro and eddoes do well on deep, moist or even swampy soils where the annual rainfall exceeds 250 cm. 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 for wetland cultivation. The crop is harvested after a decline in the height and when the leaves turn yellow. The 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 vary according to different regions. In Asia, average yields reach 12.6 tones/hectare.
The plant is inedible when raw and considered toxic due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals, typically as raphides. The toxin is minimized by cooking, especially with a pinch of baking soda. It can also be reduced by steeping taro roots in cold water overnight. Calcium oxalate is highly insoluble and contributes to kidney stones. It has been recommended to take milk or other calcium rich foods with Taro. Taro leaves also must be handled with care due to toxicity of the leaves, but are completely safe after cooking.
Global Culinary Use
The corms are roasted, baked or boiled and the natural sugars give a sweet nutty flavour. The starch is easily digestible and grains are fine and small and often used for baby food. The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.
In the Azores it is known as inhâme and is commonly used steamed with potatoes, vegetables and meats as well as fish. It is also consumed as a dessert, after being fried in vegetable oil or lard, after steaming and pealing. It is then sprinkled with sugar and eaten. It grows in the fertile land of the Azores, as well as in creeks, that are fed by mineral springs. Through immigration, the inhâme is usually found in table of Azoreans wherever they may be.
In Bangladesh it is known as mukhi kochu (মুখি কচু). It is usually cooked with small prawns into a thick curry. In some areas it is cooked with dried fish. Its green leaves are also taken here as a favourite dish.
In Brazil the root is known as inhame. It is often prepared like the potato: boiled, mashed, or stewed. It is considered a health food, good for the immune system, particularly as a preventative against malaria, yellow fever and dengue. It is also mashed raw into a plaster to treat boils and inflammation.
Taro (called yùtou, 芋头 or yùnǎi, 芋艿 in China; 芋頭, wuh táu? in Hong Kong) is commonly used as a main course (steamed taro with or without white sugar, substitute to other Cereal) or within Chinese cuisine in a variety of styles, usually a flavor enhancing ingredient. 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 woven to form a seafood birdsnest. The taro cake is also a delicacy traditionally eaten during the Chinese New Year. In desserts it is used in tong sui, bubble tea, as a flavoring in ice cream and other desserts in the China(f. ex. Sweet Taro Pie). McDonald's sells Taro flavored pies in China.
There are many taro plantations on the pacific Cook Islands as the soil there is perfect for them. The root is eaten boiled as is standard across many Polynesian islands. The leaves are also eaten as a delicacy (known locally as Rukau or "Greens"), cooked with coconut milk, onion and meat or fish.
It is eaten in soups, as a replacement for potatoes and in chips. It is known locally as "Ñame".
In Cyprus, taro has been in use since the time of the Roman Empire. Today it is known as kolokass or kolokasi (κολοκάσι) which is similar to the name the Romans used: colocasia. It is usually stewed with celery (and sometimes meat) and coriander seeds in a tomato sauce. 'Baby' taro is called 'poulles' on the island and after being fried is stewed in a sauce of crushed garlic and freshly pressed lemon juice with water. Taro also grows on Ikaria island (Greece); Ikarians credit the taro for saving them from famine during World War II.
In Egypt, taro is known as kolkas قلقاس. The corms are larger than what would be found in North American supermarkets. It is cooked in two different ways, after being peeled completely. It is cut into small cubes, and cooked in broth, with fresh coriander and swiss chard, it is served as an accompaniment to meat stew. Another method is to cut it in slices, and cooked with minced meat and tomato sauce.
Those who have done the compulsory army conscription remember the much reviled الطبخة السودا black dish, which is a combination of eggplants and taro cooked with no peeling, and cut in halves.
Taro was consumed by the early Romans in much the same way the potato is today. They called this root vegetable colocasia. The Roman cook book Apicius mentions several methods for preparing taro including boiling, preparation 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, from Egypt, previously controlled by Rome. It has remained popular in the Canary Islands. Recently[when?] however there has been renewed interest in exotic foods and consumption is increasing.
Although taro (dalo in Fijian) has been a staple of the Fijian diet for centuries, its growth as a commercial crop can be said to have begun in 1993 when the taro leaf blight (Phytophthora colocasiae) decimated the taro industry in neighboring Samoa. Fiji filled the void and was soon supplying taro internationally.Almost 80% of Fiji's exported taro comes from the Island of Taveuni where the taro beetle species (Papuana uninodis) is absent. The Fijian taro industry on the main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu faces constant damage from the beetles. The Fiji Ministry of Agriculture and the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is researching pest control and instigating quarantine restrictions to prevent spread of the pest. Taveuni now exports pest damage free crops.
The newer name for a traditional Hawaiian feast, luau, comes from the taro always served: young taro tops baked with coconut milk and chicken or octopus legs.
Taro is usually grown in pondfields known as loʻi in Hawaiian. The picture below shows several small loʻi in Maunawili Valley on Oahu. The ditch on the left in the picture is called an ʻauwai and supplies diverted stream water to the loʻi. Cool, flowing water yields the best crop.
Typical dryland or upland varieties (varieties grown in watered but not flooded fields) in Hawaii are lehua maoli and bun long, the latter widely known as Chinese taro. Bun long is used for making taro chips. Dasheen (also called "eddo") is another "dryland" variety of C. esculenta grown for its edible corms or sometimes just as an ornamental plant.
The Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service puts the 10-year median production of taro in the Hawaiian Islands at about 6.1 million pounds (2,800 t; Viotti, 2004). However, 2003 taro production in Hawaii was only 5 million pounds (2,300 t), an all-time low (record keeping started in 1946). The previous low, reached in 1997, was 5.5 million pounds (2,500 t). Yet, despite generally growing demand, production was even lower in 2005: only 4 million pounds, with kalo for processing into poi accounting for 97.5%. Urbanization has driven down harvests from a high of 14.1 million pounds (6,400 t) in 1948. But more recently the decline has resulted from pests and diseases. A non-native apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) is a major culprit in the current crop declines. Also, a plant rot disease, traced to a newly identified species of the fungal genus, Phytophthora, now plagues crops throughout the state. Although pesticides could control both pests to some extent, pesticide use in the pondfields is barred because of the clear opportunity for chemicals to quickly migrate into streams and then into the ocean. Genetic modifications are forbidden in Hawaii until 2013.
In India, Taro or Eddoe is a very common dish served in many ways.
A tall-growing variety of taro is extensively used in the western coast of India to make patrode, patrade or patrada, literally "leaf-pancake". In Dakshin Kannada district in the state of Karnataka this is used as a morning breakfast dish. It is either made like fritters, or steamed. In the state of Maharashtra the leaves, called alu che paana, are de-veined, rolled with a paste of gram flour, tamarind paste, red chilli powder, turmeric, coriander, asoefotida, salt and steamed. These can be cut into pieces, eaten as such or shallow fried and eaten as a snack known as alu chi wadi. Alu chya panan chi patal bhaji,(अळूच्या वड्या आणि आळूच्या पानाची पातळ भाजी किवा अळू चा फदफद), a lentil and colocasia leaves curry, is also popular. In the Indian state of Gujarat the leaves of the plant are to make patra, a dish with tamarind and other spices. Sindhis call it kachaloo; they fry it, mash it and re-fry it to make a dish called took which complements Sindhi curry.
In Kerala, a state in southern India, taro corms are known as chembu-kizhangu. It is used as a staple food, as a side dish, or as a ingredient in various side dishes like sambar. As a staple food it is steamed, and eaten with a spicy chutney of green chillies, tamarind and shallots. The leaves and stems of certain varieties of taro are used as a vegetable in Kerala.
In other Indian states, Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh, taro corms are known as sivapan-kizhangu(Seppankilangu OR Cheppankilangu), chamagadda or in coastal Andhra districts as chaama dumpa in Telugu, and can be cooked in many ways, deep fried in oil for a side item with rice, or cooked in a tangy tamarind sauce with spices, onion and tomato.
In the East Indian state of West bengal,taro roots are thinly sliced and fried to make chips called 'kochu bhaja'.The stem is used to cook up a very tasty saag,often eaten as a starter with hot rice.The roots are also made into a paste with spices and eaten with rice. The most popular dish is a spicy curry made with prawn and taro roots.
In the East Indian state of Orissa, taro root is known as saru. Dishes made out of taro include saru besara (taro in mustard and garlic paste). It is also an indispensable ingedient in preparing the heart of Oriya cuisine, the dalma, where vegetables are cooked with dal. Taro roots deep fried in oil and mixed with red chili powder and salt, are known as saru chips.
In the Indian state of Uttarakhand and neighbouring Nepal, it is considered a healthy food with a variety of cooking styles. The most common style is boiling it in salty water in iron cooking pots until it becomes like porridge. Another style is to steam the young leaves called gava, sun-dry them and then store for later use. For another variety, the taro leaves and stems are used raw as an ingredient for pickles. The leaves and stems are mixed with black lentils and then dried as small balls called badi and used later on. The stems are also sun-dried and stored for later use. On one special day, women worship saptarshi ("seven sages") and have rice with taro leaf vegetable only.
In Japan, it 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 rice became 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 its 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" which is a stew flavored with crushed garlic and lemon juice and "kilkass in 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.
Ala was widely grown in southern atolls, Addu, Fuvahmulah, Huvadhu, and Haddhunmathi. They considered it a staple food even after rice was introduced. Ala and olhu ala is still widely eaten all over Maldives. It is cooked or steamed with salt to taste and eaten with grated coconut along with chili paste and fish soup. it is also prepared as a curry. The roots are sliced and fried to make chips and also used to prepare varieties of sweets.
Taro is grown in the hilly regions of Nepal. The modified stem (corm) of taro is known as pindalu (पिँडालु) and petioles with leaves are known as karkalo (कर्कलो) and also as Gava (गाभा). Almost all parts are eaten by making different dishes. Large leaves of taro are use as an alternative to umbrella when unexpected rain occurs. Boiled corm of Taro is commonly served with salt, spices and chillies. It is popular among hill people. Chopped and dried leaf petioles are used to make cake called maseura.
In the Philippines, taro is called gabi. A popular recipe for taro is laing // which originates from the Bicol region in Southern Luzon. The dish's main ingredients are taro stem and leaf cooked in coconut milk, salted with fermented shrimp or fish bagoong. It is also heavily spiced with red hot chilies called siling labuyo ("Bird's eye chili"). Another dish where taro finds common use in the Filipino kitchen is the Philippine national stew, called sinigang. The sour stew is made with pork and beef, shrimp, or fish. Peeled and diced taro is a basic ingredient of pork sinigang and in ginataan, a coconut milk and taro desert recipe mixed with sago and jackfruit.
In Pakistan, Taro or Eddoe 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 Pakoda which is finished by tempering with red chillies and carrom (ajwain) seeds.
Considered the staple starch of traditional Polynesian cuisine, taro is both a common and prestigious food item that was first introduced to the Polynesian islands by prehistoric seafarers of Southeast Asian derivation. The tuber itself is prepared in various methods including baking, steaming in earth ovens (umu or imu), boiling, and frying. The famous Hawaiian staple poi is made by mashing steamed taro roots with water. Taro also features in traditional desserts such as Samoan "fa'ausi", which consists of grated, cooked taro mixed with coconut milk and brown sugar. The leaves of the taro plant also feature prominently in Polynesian cooking, especially as edible wrappings for dishes such as Hawaiian laulau, Fijian & Samoan "palusami" (wrapped coconut milk and onions), and Tongan "lupulu" (wrapped corned beef). Ceremonial presentations on occasion of chiefly rites or communal events (weddings, funerals, etc.) traditionally included ritual presentation of raw and cooked taro roots/plants. The Hawaiian laulau traditionally contains pork, fish, and lu'au (cooked taro leaf). The wrapping is with inedible ti leaves (Hawaiian: lau ki). The cooked taro leaf has the consistency of cooked spinach and would be unsuitable for use as a wrapping.
In South Korea, it 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).
In Suriname the taro root is called aroei by the Indians and is commonly known as "chinese tayer". The variety known as 'eddoe' is called Chinese tayer. It is a popular cultivar among the marroon population in the interior, also because it is not very affected by high water levels. The variety 'dasheen' is not very common, although appreciated for its taste. This is commonly planted in swamps. The closely related Xanthosoma species is the base for the popular Surinamese dish pom.
In Taiwan, where it is called ô-å (Taiwanese: 芋啊), supermarket varieties range from about the size and shape of a brussels sprout to longer, larger varieties the size of a man's fist. Taro chips are often used as a potato-chip-like snack. Compared to potato chips, taro chips are harder and have a more nutty flavor. Other popular traditional Taiwanese taro snacks are deep-fried taro balls.
In Thai cuisine taro Thai: เผือก (pheuak) is usaed in a variety of ways depending from the region. Boiled taro is readily available in the market, already peeled and diced, in small cellophane bags and is eaten as a snack. Pieces of boiled taro with coconut milk are one of the traditional Thai desserts. Raw taro is also often sliced and deep fried and sold in bags as chips (เผือกทอด).
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.
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.[clarification needed] 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 areas with large Spanish and Portuguese speaking communities (especially from former island colonies like Puerto Rico, where it is called "malanga", Cuba, Dominican Republic, Azores, etc.) it is called ñame or inhame.
In Venezuela, where taro is called ocumo chino or "chino", it is used in soups and sancochos. Soups are added large chunks or several kinds of tubers, including ocumo chino, especially in the eastern part of the country, where West Indies influences are present. It is also used to acompany meats in "parrillas" (barbecue), or fried cured fish where yuca is not available. "Ocumo" is a 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 the purplish color taros have inside. 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, where taro is called khoai môn, it is used as a filling in spring rolls, cakes, puddings, smoothies, soups 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.
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 or macabo in Francophone Cameroon. Cocoyam, is often boiled, fried or roasted and eaten with a sauce. In Ghana, it substitutes 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. Cocoyam leaves locally called kontomire in Ghana, is a popular vegetable for local sauces such as palaver sauce and egusi / agushi stew.
Taro is called "dasheen", in contrast to the smaller corms called "eddo" in the English speaking countries of the West Indies, and is cultivated and consumed as a staple crop in the region. In the Spanish speaking countries of the Spanish West Indies it is called ñame, the Portuguese variant of which (inhame) is used in former Portuguese colonies where taro is still cultivated, including the Azores and Brazil. In Puerto Rico, it is sometimes called "malanga",
In some countries, such as Trinidad & Tobago, the leaves of the Dasheen, or Taro, are most often pureed into a thick soup called callaloo. Callaloo is sometimes prepared with crab and crab legs in it, coconut milk, pumpkin and okra. It is usually served alongside rice.
- Colocasia esculenta
- Eddoe (a variety of taro)
Satoimo (サトイモ) - Taro of Japan
- ^ Purseglove, J.W. 1972. Tropical crops. Monocotyledons. Longman & John Wiley, Harlow and New York.
- ^ Kolchaar, K. 2006 Economic Botany in the Tropics, Macmillan India
- ^ Country profile: Samoa, New Agriculturist Online new-agri.co, accessed June 12, 2006
- ^ Faostat UN Food & Agriculture Organisation
- ^ FAO: Taro cultivation in Asia and the Pacific, 1999
- ^ Weird Foods from around the World
- ^ ASPCA: Animal Poison Control Center: Toxic Plant List
- ^ The Morton Arboretum Quarterly, Morton Arboretum/University of California, 1965, p. 36.
- ^ Hossain RZ, Ogawa Y, Morozumi M, Hokama S, Sugaya K (May 2003). "Milk and calcium prevent gastrointestinal absorption and urinary excretion of oxalate in rats". Frontiers in Bioscience 8: a117-125. doi:10.2741/1083. PMID 12700095.
- ^ In the Canary Islands it is known as "ñame" and it's often used in thick vegetable stews, like "potaje de berros" (cress potage). http://www.culturatradicionalgc.org/Gastronomia-Tradicional/Primer-Plato/Potaje-de-Berros.html
- ^ a b Hao, 2006
- ^ Viotti, 2004
- ^ The Japan Times Online
- ^ 
- ^ 
- ^ Taro in Coconut Milk - Dessert Recipe
- ^ ghanaian cuisine
- Hao, Sean. 2006. "Rain, pests and disease shrink taro production to record low". Honolulu Advertiser, February 2, 2006, p. C1.
- "The Future of Kalo" Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine Vol.11 No. 5 (August 2006).
- "Powered by Poi" Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine Vol.11 No.4 (July 2007)
- Stephens, James M. 1994. Dasheen –– Colocasia exculenta (L.) Schott. Fact Sheet HS-592 from a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. May 1994. edis
- Taro climate at Green-Seeds.com (taro growing methods)
- Taveuni Taro at fijitaro.com (Fiji taro industry history)
- Viotti, V. 2004. Honolulu Advertiser, March 16, 2004.
- Wagner, W. L., D. R. Herbst, and S. H. Sohmer. 1999. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai‘i. Revised edition. Vol. 2. Univ. of Hawei‘i Press/Bishop Museum Press. p. 1357.
- Cho, John J, Yamakawa, Roy A., and James Hollyer. 2007. Hawaiian Kalo, Past and Future. Sustainable Agriculture
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