The edible corms of the tropical plant Colocasia esculenta, better known as taro, are a popular item of cultivation.
The corms, leaflets, and petioles of the Araceae family, which includes this species, are extensively farmed as vegetables. African, Pacific, and South Asian societies rely heavily on taro corms as a major food source (similar to yams), and taro is one of the first known cultivated plants.
Taro is an English word that originated in the Mori language of New Zealand, where Captain Cook first saw Colocasia tuber plantations in 1769 and was adopted by the English.
As far back as recorded history goes, taro was one of the first crops ever grown. It is difficult to distinguish between wild taro and farmed taro because taro is so polymorphic, making taxonomic classification and the differentiation between cultivated and wild taro problematic.
Authors have suggested that they were tamed in New Guinea, continental Southeast Asia, and northeast India, based in part on the wild species’ presumed natural range. A growing body of evidence suggests that wild taro’s native range is far greater than previously thought, and that wild breeding kinds may potentially be native to other regions of Southeast Asia’s island nation.
Only two of the more than 100 kinds of real taro are likely to be found in the continental United States.
Growing the dasheen variety is popular. Even though it’s a lot bigger than a garlic clove (2, depicted above), you’ll occasionally find it sliced into smaller pieces. Its flesh is coarser and more brittle than eddoes’ after it’s done cooking.
A lesser variety, eddoes may grow to be as big as a huge lemon. The smaller dasheen is a touch blander and drier than the bigger one.
Despite the fact that ours is rather sleek, both dasheen and eddoe have the potential to have a shaggy appearance. It is unlikely that either variety will be labeled by title, but you can readily tell them apart just on appearance. If you can’t locate the latter in a recipe, you can use both interchangeably most of the time.
What to Buy and Where to Keep It
A wide variety of taro may be found in well-stocked grocery shops as well as marketplaces in the Indian, East Asian, and Latin American regions. To ensure a clean specimen, keep it in a dark and cold place for several days before using. If you don’t have a root cellar, a brown paper bag at ambient temperature will work for most people. As with other veggies, taro keeps for a long time in the refrigerator.
Notes on Preparation and Precautions
To be on the safe side, you should know that uncooked taro is toxic. Even if it’s cooked, taro may cause significant skin irritation, so it’s vital to treat this vegetable with care. Make sure you read these instructions thoroughly before you get started with any kind of taro dish, including baked taro, crispy taro chips, or pancakes.
Garlic peelers and paring knives may be used to remove the skin of the taro roots after they’ve been scrubbed well with gloves. We suggest y-shaped vegetable graters for all kinds of peeling, but notably for tough root vegetables. Oxalic acid particles, which may hurt even the most hardened of skin, need the use of protective gloves.
If you don’t have disposable gloves, cover your hands in cooking oil before peeling. When you’ve finished peeling the corms, you can either use them right away or put them in a basin of cold water and keep them from discoloring. It is common practice to boil little eddoes with their skins on and subsequently peel them, removing this need for gloves.