Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
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Taro (from Tahitian or other Polynesian languages), more rarely kalo (from Hawaiian), is a tropical plant grown primarily as a vegetable food for its edible corm, and secondarily as a leaf vegetable. It is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated plants. Taro is closely related to Xanthosoma and Caladium, plants commonly grown as ornamentals, and like them it is sometimes loosely called elephant ear. In its raw form the plant is toxic due to the presence of calcium oxalate, although the toxin is destroyed by cooking or can be removed by steeping Taro roots in cold water overnight.
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). Esculent is an English word taken directly from Latin and means edible. In Kenya, taro root is referred to as arrow root. Also known as ndŭma in Kikuyu. In some Caribbean countries, it is sometimes known as dasheen, a name said to be derived from the French de Chine which means from China and evokes the plant’s Asian origins. The leaves are used to make a soup popular in the US Virgin Islands, called kallaloo soup. In Cyprus it is known as kolokassi, which is similar to the name the Romans used: colocasia. Taro is also known as dalo In the Fijian Islands. Eddoe is another name for taro, although this one seems to be preferentially used to designate small corm varieties.
The Taro, or Elephants Ear, belongs to the Plantae phylum. The Taro’s genus is Colocasia esculenta var. esculenta. The C. esculenta is the species. The Banana Tree is similar because they grow in similar places making it so the Taro and Banana live in similar climates. The Taro reproduces asexually. The Taro’s leaves are shaped like big oval with points making it look like an Elephant’s ear. The Taro can be found in Hawaii, Fiji, Puerto Rico and more.
The small round variety is peeled and boiled, sold either frozen, bagged in its own liquids, or canned. The plant is actually inedible when raw because of needle-shaped raphides in the plant cells.
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. Oxalic acid may be present in the corm and especially in the leaf, and these foods should be eaten with milk or other foods rich in calcium so as to remove the risks posed by ingesting the free oxalic radical especially for people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis. Calcium reacts with the oxalate to form calcium oxalate which is very insoluble. Besides, menlatonin can be extracted from taro roots and other edible plants, and more recently, this phytomelatonin extract is sold as food supplements that are to cure insomnia and jet lags.