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.
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 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.
- 1 Cultivation
- 2 Toxicity
- 3 Culinary use
- 3.1 Azores
- 3.2 Bangladesh
- 3.3 Brazil
- 3.4 Chinese cuisine
- 3.5 Cook Islands
- 3.6 Costa Rica
- 3.7 East Africa
- 3.8 Egypt
- 3.9 Europe
- 3.10 Fiji
- 3.11 India
- 3.12 Japan
- 3.13 Lebanon
- 3.14 Maldives
- 3.15 Nepal
- 3.16 Philippines
- 3.17 Pakistan
- 3.18 Papua New Guinea
- 3.19 Polynesia
- 3.20 Samoa
- 3.21 South Korea
- 3.22 Sri Lanka
- 3.23 Suriname
- 3.24 Thailand
- 3.25 Tonga
- 3.26 Trinidad & Tobago
- 3.27 Turkey
- 3.28 United States
- 3.29 Venezuela
- 3.30 Vietnam
- 3.31 West Africa
- 3.32 West Indies
- 4 References
- 5 Further Information
- 6 External links
|Top taro producers of 2009
(million metric tons)
|Papua New Guinea||0.3|
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, and monoculture 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.
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 consume milk or other calcium-rich foods together with taro.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||594 kJ (142 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||5.1 g|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||177 kJ (42 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||3.7 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
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 kochu is 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 Portuguese-speaking 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 (family Dioscoreaceae), and its respective starchy edible parts, generally tubers, with the exception of the air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), called cará-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 of Australian 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 (called yùtou, 芋头 or yùnǎi, 芋艿 in mainland China; 芋頭, wuh táu? in Hong Kong) is commonly used as a main course (steamed taro with or without white 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.
In Taiwan, taro is called 芋頭 (yùtou) 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. Supermarket varieties 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 nutty flavor. 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 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.
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.
In Egypt, taro is known as kolkas (Egyptian Arabic: قلقاس, IPA: [ʔolˈʔæːs]). 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 broth with fresh coriander and swiss chard and served as an accompaniment to meat stew, or it may be sliced and cooked with minced meat and tomato sauce.
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[when?] 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.
Taro (dalo in Fijian) has been a staple of the Fijian diet for centuries, and its cultural importance is celebrated on Taro Day. Its growth as an export 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) are researching pest control and instigating quarantine restrictions to prevent spread of the pest. Taveuni now exports pest damage-free crops.
In India, taro or eddoe is a common dish served in many ways.
It is called Arbi in the Hindi in North India.
In Assam, a north-eastern state of India, taro is known as "kasu". Various parts of different types of such plants are eaten by making different dishes. The leave buds called "Kasu lati" are cooked with sour dried fruits called "Thekera" or sometimes with Tarmarind or Elephant apple alone or with little amount of pulses and sometimes, fishes. Similar dishes are prepared from long root like structures called "Kasu thuri". A fried dish with sour objects is also made from its flower (Kasu kala). Soupy dishes are made from solid roots which sometimes is also boiled and taken sometimes with salt as snacks or home-made fast food.
In Manipur, another north-eastern state of India, taro is known as "pan".The kuki tribes called it "bal". Boiled "bal" is snacked as lunch along with chutney or hot chilli-flakes besides cooked as a main dish along with smoked or dried meat, beans,mustard leaves.They also sundried the leaves and keep it for future use as broth and hodge-podge. It is widely available and is eaten in many forms, either baked, boiled, and cooked into a curry with Hilsa fish or with fermented soyabeans called "Hawai-zaar". The leaves are also used in a special traditional dish called "utti", cooked with peas.
In Himachal Pradesh, a northern state in India, taro is known as ghandyali in Mandi district. The dish called patrodu is made from the leaves of the ghandyali. Also in the capital Shimla, a pancake-style dish, called patra or patid, is made using gram flour.
A tall-growing variety of taro is extensively used on the western coast of India to make patrode, patrade, or patrada, literally a "leaf-pancake". In Dakshin Kannada district in the state of Karnataka, it is used as a morning breakfast dish, 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 chilly powder, turmeric, coriander, asafoetida, and salt, and then steamed. These can be eaten whole or cut into pieces, or shallow fried and eaten as a snack known as alu chi wadi. Alu chya panan chi patal bhaji a lentil and colocasia leaves curry, is also popular.In Goan cuisine as well as the Konkani cuisine Taro leaves are very popular.
In the Indian state of Gujarat, the leaves of the plant are used to make patra or Pattarvelia (પાત્રા,પત્તરવેલિયાં) 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 ചേമ്പ് കിഴങ്ങ് chembu-kizhangu. Taro is used as a staple food, as a side dish, or as an 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 and Andhra Pradesh, taro corms are known as sivapan-kizhangu (seppankilangu or cheppankilangu), chamagadda, or in coastal Andhra districts as chaama dumpa in Telugu, and it can be cooked in many ways, such as 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 a very tasty Kochur saag with fried hilsha fish head or boiled chhola (chickpea), 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 Mithilanchal region of Bihar , taro root is known as अडुआ and its leaves are called अड़िकंच के पात. the curry of taro leave is made with mustard paste and आमिल (dried mango pulp in sun for sour taste in Daal, curry and sour gravy) .
In the eastern Indian state of Odisha, taro root is known as saru. Dishes made of taro include saru besara (taro in mustard and garlic paste). It is also an indispensable ingredient in preparing the heart of Oriya cuisine, the dalma, where vegetables are cooked with dal. Sliced taro roots, deep fried in oil and mixed with red chili powder and salt, are known as saru chips.
In the north Indian state of Uttarakhand and neighbouring Nepal, taro is considered a healthy food cooked in a variety of ways. The delicateGaderi taro of Kumaun, especially from Lobanj region is much sought after. Most commonly it is boiled in tamarind water till tender, then cubes are diced out, which are stir fried in mustard oil with methi (fenugreek) leaves. Boiling it in salty water in iron cooking pots until it becomes like porridge, is another technique. The young leaves, called gaaba, are steamed, then sun-dried and stored for later use. For another use, the taro leaves and stems are used raw as an ingredient for pickles. Crushed leaves and stems are mixed with de-husked urad dal - black lentils and then dried as small balls called badi. The stems may also be sun-dried and stored for later use. On one special day, women worship saptarshi ("seven sages") and eat only rice with taro leaf vegetable.
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 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 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.
Ala was widely grown in southern atolls Addu, Fuvahmulah, Huvadhu, and Haddhunmathi and considered a staple food even after rice was introduced. Ala and olhu ala are still widely eaten all over Maldives, 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 are also used to prepare varieties of sweets.
Taro is grown in the Terai and hilly regions of Nepal. The root (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 in different dishes. Boiled corm of Taro is commonly served with salt, spices and chillies. Taro is a popular dish in hilly region. Chopped leaves and petioles are mixed with Urad bean flour to make dried balls called maseura (मस्यौरा). Large taro leaves are used as an alternative to an umbrella when unexpected rain occurs. Popular attachment to taro since ancient times is reflected in popular culture, such as in songs and textbooks. Jivan hamro karkala ko pani jastai ho (जिवन हाम्रो कर्कलाको पानी जस्तै हो) means, "Our life is as vulnerable as water stuck in the leaf of taro".
Taro is cultivated and eaten by Tharu people in the Inner Terai as well. Roots are mixed with dried fish and turmeric, then dried in cakes called sidhara which are curried with radish, chile, garlic and other spices to accompany rice. The Tharu prepare the leaves in a fried vegetable side-dish that also shows up in Maithili cuisine.
Taro is called gabi in the Philippines and is widely available throughout the archipelago. 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 Bicol 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, called 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.
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.
Papua New Guinea
Among the Urapmin people of Papua New Guinea, taro (known in Urap as ima) is the main source of sustenance along with the sweet potato (Urap: wan). In fact, the word for "food" in Urap is a compound of these two words.
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 ways, 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 and Samoan "palusami" (wrapped around onions and coconut milk), 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 inedible ti leaves (Hawaiian: lau ki). Cooked taro leaf has the consistency of cooked spinach and is therefore unsuitable for use as a wrapping.
In Samoa the taro root and parcels of coconut milk wrapped in the taro leaves are cooked, along with other food, in an umu. The parcels are called palusami or lu'au. The root is used to scrape up pieces of lu'au so as to eat them together. The resulting mouthful is smoky, sweet, savoury and has a unique taste from the taro leaves. The texture is also remarkable: starchy, creamy, and luscious.
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 Suriname, the taro root is called aroei by the native Indians and is commonly known as "Chinese tayer". The variety known as "eddoe" is also called Chinese tayer. It is a popular cultivar among the marroon population in the interior, also because it is not adversely affected by high water levels. The "dasheen" variety, commonly planted in swamps, is rare, although appreciated for its taste. The closely related Xanthosoma species is the base for the popular Surinamese dish, pom.
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.
Lū is lea faka-Tonga for the edible leaves of the talo/taro plant, as well as the traditional dish made using them. This meal is still prepared for special occasions and especially on Sāpate (Sunday). The dish consists of chopped meat and onions with coconut milk wrapped in a number of lū talo/taro leaves. This is then wrapped traditionally in a lū siaine/banana leaf (nowadays, aluminum foil is often used) and put in the ʻumu to cook. It has a number of naming varieties, dependent on the filling:
- Lū pulu – lū with beef, commonly using imported kapapulu (corned beef)
- Lū sipi – lū with lamb
- Lū moa – lū with chicken
- Lū hoosi – lū with horse meat
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.
Mainland United States
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 Hawaii, taro, or kalo in Ōlelo Hawaiʻi/Hawaiian language, is a traditional Native Hawaiian cuisine staple. Some of the uses for taro include poi, table taro, taro chips, and luau leaf. In Hawaii, taro is farmed under either dryland or wetland conditions. Taro farming in the Hawaiian islands is especially challenging because of difficulties in accessing fresh water. Taro is usually grown in pondfields known as loʻi in Hawaiian. 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 contemporary Hawaiian diet consists of many tuberous plants, particularly sweet potato and taro.
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). 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 decline. 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 migrate quickly into streams and then into the ocean.
Important aspects of Hawaiian culture revolves around kalo cultivation and consumption. For example, the newer name for a traditional Hawaiian feast, luau, comes from the kalo. Young kalo tops baked with coconut milk and chicken or octopus arms are frequently served at luaus. By ancient Hawaiian custom, fighting is not allowed when a bowl of poi is open. It is also considered disrespectful to fight in front of an elder, and one should not raise one's voice, speak angrily, or make rude comments or gestures. An open poi bowl is connected to this concept because Hāloa (taro) is the name of the first-born son of the parents who begat the human race. Hawaiians identify strongly with kalo, so much so that the Hawaiian term for family, ʻohana, is derived from the word ʻohā, the shoot or sucker which grows from the kalo corm. As young shoots grow from the corm, so people, too, grow from their family.
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, and macabo 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 and egusi/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.
Taro is called "dasheen", in contrast to the smaller variety of corms called "eddo," or tanya in the English speaking countries of the West Indies, and is cultivated and consumed as a staple crop in the region. There are differences amongst the roots mentioned above: taro or dasheen is mostly blue when cooked, tanya is white and very dry, and eddoes are small and very slimy.
In the Spanish speaking countries of the Spanish West Indies taro 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 and Cuba, it is sometimes called "malanga". In some countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica, the leaves and stem of the dasheen, or taro, are most often cooked and pureed into a thick liquid called callaloo, which is served as a side dish similar to creamed spinach. Callaloo is sometimes prepared with crab legs, coconut milk, pumpkin and okra. It is usually served alongside rice or made into a soup along with various other roots.
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