Taro is a plant that requires hard work and patience to grow it to maturity. Many know taro as "poi," which is a staple food for the Hawaiian people. It is a very nutritious food.
This plant is very starchy. It is an underground rood, known as a "corm," that is the globular fleshy taproot of aroid family plants. If you do not cook your taro enough, the calcium oxalate in the taro will make your throat uncomfortably itchy. If you use a Chinese taro, which has less oxalates, you will not have such an itchy mouth. A remedy to eating under cooked taro is to rinse your mouth with salt or baking soda solution to eliminate the irritation. The taro corm have special cells that contain bundles of fine needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate called "raphides." They can cause a stinging sensation in your mouth!
Taro is grown in Asia, Oceania, Africa, and the Caribbean. It is known by many names: Brazil (taioba); China (ya, yu-tao); Columbia (chonque); Cuba (guagui); Dominican Republic (malanga); Indonesia (taro de Chine, arvi); Japan (imo, sato imo); Malaysia (ta'o, keladi, tallas); Philippines (gabi, abalong, amalong, dagmay, gablos); Samoa (talo); Spain (tayoba); Tonga (talo, talo Tonga); Vietnam (khoai au nu'octrang, khou-au ku'ou tuiang); West Indies (eddoe, dasheen, cocode Chine, curcas, chou bouton); and Venezuela (danchi, ocumo culin).
The Latin name for taro is in the family of Araceae. There are four basic genera: Colocasia, Xanthosoma, Alocasia, and Cyrtosperna. Taro has been used over many centuries by man. There are over 300 varieties of taro worldwide, 85 of them grow in Hawaii. It takes about twelve months to mature and have clusters of large leaves that vary in colour from red to green, to black and varigated. In Hawai'i, the leaves are called lau or lu'au. One cup of taro leaves contains calcium and a third of the daily allowance of Vitamin A.
I enjoy eating taro ice-cream, not only because it is purple, but because it is very flavourful. It goes great with a bright orange mango ice-cream!
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