Colocasia esculenta is a tropical plant grown primarily for its edible corms, the root vegetables most commonly known as taro. It is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated plants.[not in citation given]
Rhizomes of different shapes and sizes. Leaves up to 40×24.8 cm, sprouts from rhizome, dark green above and light green beneath, triangular-ovate, sub-rounded and mucronate at apex, tip of the basal lobes rounded or sub-rounded. Petiole 0.8 -1.2 m high. Spathe up to 25 cm long. Spadix about 3/5 as long as the spathe, flowering parts up to 8 mm in diameter. Female portion at the fertile ovaries intermixed with sterile white ones. Neuters above the females, rhomboid or irregular oblong. Male portion above the neuter. Synandrium lobed, cells 6 or 8. Appendage shorter than the male portion.
The specific epithet, esculenta, means "edible" in Latin.
Distribution and habitat
Taro was probably first native to the lowland wetlands of Malaysia (taloes). Estimates are that taro was in cultivation in wet tropical India before 5000 BC, presumably coming from Malaysia, and from India further transported westward to ancient Egypt, where it was described by Greek and Roman historians as an important crop. In India, it is known as "Gaderi", with smaller ones called "arbi" or "arvi" being more common and popular. In Indonesia, it is called talas or keladi.
In Australia, Colocasia esculenta var. aquatilis is native to the Kimberley region of Western Australia; variety esculenta is naturalised in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales.
Taro's primary use is the consumption of its edible corm and leaves. In its raw form, the plant is toxic due to the presence of calcium oxalate, and the presence of needle-shaped raphides in the plant cells. However, the toxin can be minimized and the tuber rendered palatable by cooking, or by steeping in cold water overnight.
It is also sold as an ornamental aquatic plant.
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- Country profile: Samoa, New Agriculturist Online new-agri.co, accessed June 12, 2006
- 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.