Learn more about Taro
| Image:Colocasia esculenta 5.jpg|
| Colocasia esculenta|
Taro (from Tahitian or other Polynesian languages), more rarely kalo (from Hawaiian) or gabi in the Philippines, is a tropical plant grown primarily as a vegetable food for its edible corm, and secondarily as a leaf vegetable. Its flowers are also eaten. Taro is closely related to Xanthosoma and Caladium, plants commonly grown as ornamentals, and like them it is sometimes loosely called elephant ear. Taro and domesticated Xanthosoma species share substantially the same uses, and several names, including callaloo and coco or cocoyam. Taro may be distinguished as "taro cocoyam" or "old cocoyam". Its scientific name is Colocasia esculenta (synonym C. antiquorum). Taro is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated plants.<ref>Country profile: Samoa, New Agriculturist Online , accessed June 12, 2006</ref>
Taro is a traditional staple in many tropical areas of the world, and is the base for making poi in Hawaii. The plant is actually inedible if ingested raw because of needle-shaped raphides in the plant cells. Severe gastrointestinal distress can occur unless the plant is properly processed first.
|Top Taro Producers - 2005|
(million metric ton)
|Image:Flag of Nigeria.svg Nigeria||4.0|
|Image:Flag of Ghana.svg Ghana||1.8|
|Image:Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China||1.6|
|Image:Flag of Cambodia.svg Cambodia||1.1|
|Image:Flag of Cote d'Ivoire.svg Côte d'Ivoire||0.4|
|Image:Flag of Papua New Guinea.svg Papua New Guinea||0.3|
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Typical of leaf vegetables, taro leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, and a very good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Taro corms are very high in starch, and are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, and manganese. Oxalic acid may be present in the corm and especially in the leaf, and these foods should be avoided or eaten in moderation by people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Taro is typically boiled, stewed, or sliced and fried as tempura. The small round variety is peeled and boiled, sold either frozen, bagged in its own liquids, or canned. In China, taro is called 芋头 or 芋頭 (yù tóu in Mandarin; or wu tao or wu tau in Cantonese) and is often used as an ingredient in niangao, a dense pudding made from glutinous rice flour mixed with mashed taro, and eaten during Chinese New Year.
Taro can be grown in paddy fields or in upland situations where watering is supplied by rainfall or by supplemental irrigation. Some varieties of taro can also be grown away from the tropics, in places such as Korea and Japan. In Korea, taro is called toran (토란) meaning "egg from earth", and the corm is stewed and the leaf stem is stir-fried. The taro corm is called sato-imo (里芋) in Japanese and supermarket varieties range from about the size and shape of a brussels sprout to longer, larger varieties the size of an adult male's fist.
Taro is extensively used in Kerala, in South India, where it is called Chempu in Malayalam. Taro is used as a staple food, or as a side dish, or as a component in various side dishes. As a staple food it is steamed, and eaten with a chutney of green pepper and shallot onions. Leaves and stem of certain varieties of taro are used as vegetable in Kerala. A tree growing variety of Taro is extensively used in the western coast of India to make "patrade" or "patrada" which means literaly leaf-pancake. These are either made like fritters, or are steamed and eaten. Taro is consumed in most of the regions in India. It is called arvi in Hindi, Kesu in Kannada, Aalu (अळू) in Marathi, and chamagadda in Telugu.
Taro chips are often used as a potato chip like snack. Compared to potato chips, taro chips are harder and have a more assertive nutty flavor. Taro chips are generally made from upland taro because of their lower moisture content.
 Taro production in Hawaii
Taro is usually grown in pondfields called 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. Some of the taro plants in the foreground have been harvested and the caretakers are preparing to replant the huli stacked at their feet. These are the top portion of the corm with a short piece of bladeless leafstem.
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% (Hao, 2006). 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 (Viotti, 2004; Hao, 2006).
- Hao, Sean. 2006. "Rain, pests and disease shrink taro production to record low". Honolulu Advertiser, February 2, 2006, p. C1.
- 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)
- 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.