Taro is a common name for the corms and tubers and native to Southeast Asia. It is a perennial, tropical plant primarily grown as root vegetable for its edible starchy corm and is considered staple in African, Oceanic and Asian cultures.
The taro root, also known as “dasheen”, “eddo” and “kalo”, is cultivated in many areas of the world including West Africa, Asia, Central America, South America and the Caribbean and Polynesian islands. A staple among many of the people who reside in these geographic regions, taro root is most well-known as the ingredient of the Hawaiian dish “poi”, which is made from steaming or boiling the taro root then mashing it into a paste. Because of the taro root’s popularity with the early civilizations that inhabited Hawaii, more than 350 varieties of taro root were previously grown on the islands. However, today that number has dwindled down to seven to twelve varieties.
Taro root is a starchy tuber vegetable that looks like, and can be used similar to, a potato. It does, however, have a hairy outer coating on its surface that is similar to the coating on a coconut. Because of this, when preparing to use a taro root, the root’s outer skin must first be removed. This procedure is easy to do. However, some individual’s can acquire a skin irritation towards the juices that are secreted by the taro root as its skin is being removed. Therefore, to be on the safe side, when peeling a taro root’s skin, use protective rubber gloves. Additionally, because taro root can be toxic in its raw state, always cook it before using.
Taro root (colocasia) is said to have originated in the Indo-Malayan regions, perhaps the eastern India and Bangladesh and spread eastward into the 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 from hence it spread to the Caribbean and Americas.
A taro root can be grown on both dry and wet land, as in a bog. The type of taro root that is used to grow in wet lands can also grow on dry land. This is not the case, however, with the type of taro root that is cultivated to grow specifically on dry land. This dry land taro root typically has a dark purple skin and white roots. Additionally, it contains a moist flesh inside. Although taro roots are grown year round, they are typically harvested in the fall. This is because they reach their peak in maturity then.
Taro roots can be used as an alternative to potatoes. They do, however, have somewhat of a nut-like flavor when cooked. Common uses for taro roots include frying, baking, roasting, boiling, or steaming them as an accompaniment to meat dishes. They are also often used in soups or stews. Additionally, vegetarians have found the cooked taro root to be a delicious addition to meals such as antipasto salads that include endives, peppers, tomatoes, chicory, and fresh herbs. Another reason that the taro root has gained in popularity for cooking purposes is because its starch is easily digestible. Additionally, taro roots are extremely nutritious as they provide a good source of fiber, contain a high amount of protein, calcium, and phosphorus, and supply approximately 95 calories per adult serving.
To determine whether a taro root is suitable for use, make sure that the root is firm to the touch, and has hairy roots. Because of its diversity, the taro root vegetable can easily be used as a healthy alternative to potatoes and other tubers. The corms are roasted, baked or boiled and the natural sugars give a sweet nutty flavor. 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.
Taro is a very common dish served with or without gravy; a popular dish is arvi gosht, which includes lamb or mutton in North India. The taro is either made like fritters or steamed for the morning breakfast in the state of Karnataka. In Kerala there are known as chembu kizhangu and is used as a staple food, as a side dish or sometimes added to the sambar or prepare a taro root chutney with fresh grated coconut. In other Indian states, Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh, taro corms are known as sivapan-kizhangu, chamagadda or in coastal Andhra districts as chaama dumpa in Telugu, and 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 called as the Chamagadda pulusu.
Taro root can be a great addition to a meal to make it heartier and healthier. Taro root is often substituted for a potato in many recipes; at it is also a starchy vegetable. Taro roots are tubers that are actually toxic when they are raw and take on a “nut-like flavor when cooked.”
The nutritional values of 100g of cooked taro root are:
Carbohydrates: 23.5 g
Energy: 440 kj
Fiber: 2.5 g
Fat: 0 g