Taro Root

Colocasia esculenta

Herbs gallery - Taro Root

Common names

  • Taro
  • Taro Root

Taro roots are brown tubers that have a rough texture and are covered in hairs. They are native from Malaysia and very popular in cuisine in Asia, India and even Polynesia. The yautia is a closely related plant that is treated like a potato in the recipes of Africa and the Caribbean Islands.

While the taro root is considered to have the blandest and weakest taste of all root vegetables of Asia, this makes it an excellent carrier for stronger flavours. The tuber is steamed then turned into a pulp in Hawaii, producing the traditional dish with a gelatinous texture known as poi. Taro roots are sliced, seasoned with various spices and then fried in India. Taro is also popular in Chinese cuisine, where it is found during the entire year in some of the cakes that are part of dim sum. However, moon cakes filled with taro are especially associated with the Lunar New Year's celebrations.

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The plant commonly known as taro has the scientific name Colocasia esculenta. It is a tropical species cultivated mainly for its edible root. Scientists suspect it might be one of the first plants to be cultivated by ancient humans. It was initially described as the separate species Colocasia esculenta and Colocasia antiquorum by Linnaeus. However, most of the later botanists have classified it as a single species, named Colocasia esculenta, which is considered to be very variable. The popular names depend on the location, it is known as cocoyam in Ghana and as eddoes, dasheen or madumbi in other areas.

The Araceae family includes several species with edible leaves, petioles or tubers that are cultivated and consumed as vegetables. Taro is the most common of these plants.

The tuber stalk of taro is a thick root that has played a major role in the cuisine of many parts of the world for thousands of years as a staple food. As one of the earliest plants domesticated by primitive men, it is said to have a long and fascinating history. The initial range of the species is unknown but it was probably native to southern India or another location in Southeast Asia. It has been carried by humans to other continents and is cultivated today in many places around the world. There are many varieties of the plant and every culture uses it in different recipes. The petioles of the taro are able to function underwater, which makes it a very versatile and adaptable species that is suitable for cultivation in flooded areas. This makes it a staple food in India, Africa and Oceania. However, it is cultivated and eaten in many other countries, as diverse as the USA, Suriname, Fiji, Spain, Japan or Egypt.

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Dasheen, also known as elephant ears due to the large size of its broad leaves, is probably the most common taro cultivar. The plant is not edible in raw form and must be cooked but the leaves, roots, and corms can all be consumed. The raw plant has a high content of oxalates, which make it toxic. These poisonous compounds can be eliminated by overnight stepping or if baking soda is added during the cooking process. It is very easy to cultivate and produces a large amount of edible material, which makes it an extremely popular species. The quantity of taro roots produced yearly in the world is estimated at over 11.3 million metric tons. The effects of the plant in human health have lately become known as well, so it is increasingly used as a healthy ingredient in various parts of the modern world.

Parts used

Roots, corms, leaves.

Uses

Both the tubers and the leaves of taro are edible, which make it a valuable cultivated species. It can't be consumed raw, because its cells have a content of toxic calcium oxalate and raphides that have a shape similar to a needle. Keeping the roots in cold water for one night eliminates most of these toxins, which are also destroyed by cooking.

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Small round taro corms are sold after being peeled and boiled. Afterwards they are packed in cans or bags in their own liquid, as well as frozen. The content of vitamins and minerals is higher in the leaves. It can also serve as an ornamental plant.

Anthocyanin study experiments have made use of the taro, focusing in particular on the abaxial and adaxial anthocyanic concentration.

The color of the roots is light purple, since they contain phenolic pigments. They are rich in natural sugars that give it a special sweet nutty taste after boiling, baking or roasting. It consists of fine small grains and it's a popular choice for baby food because the starch in its composition can be easily digested. The leaves are richer in proteins and the vitamins A and C. Both the young leaves and the stems are edible but must be boiled twice in order to eliminate toxins and improve their taste.

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Including taro roots in your diet has been known for a long time to improve digestion. No less than 27% of the daily recommended amount of dietary fibre can be supplied by a single serving of taro roots. As a result, it is an excellent choice for a balanced digestion. Fibre plays a critical role in the gastrointestinal tract because it bulks up the stool and facilitates regular bowel movements. This is essential for a proper digestion and can treat or prevent many conditions such as constipation, diarrhea, excess gas, bloating or cramping. It can also reduce the risk of developing several types of cancers. A healthy digestive system provides a general boost to the entire body.

Taro roots also help preventing cancer by improving the overall level of antioxidants. They provide many compounds that are able to destroy free radicals in the body and strengthen the immune system, such as the vitamins A and C, as well as a number of phenolic antioxidants. Free radicals are produced by the human metabolism as a by-product and can alter the chemical structure of cells, triggering the formation of tumours. If they are controlled properly, the risk of many serious diseases is greatly reduced. One particular compound in taro roots, cryptoxanthin, has been found to protect from oral and lung cancer.

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Dietary fibres also balance the production of glucose and insulin, so they are very useful in the prevention of diabetes. Taro roots provide a massive dose of fibres, which reduce the risk of diabetes by keeping the glycemic levels under control at all times. Even people who already suffer from diabetes can benefit from the fibers in taro roots. They can prevent the wild glucose level swings that are the main danger of this disease.

Taro roots are a major source of potassium, which is one of the essential minerals that the body constantly needs in great amounts. Potassium plays a critical role in the balance of liquids, regulating the transfer of fluids through various tissues and membranes. At the same time, it protects arteries and blood vessels by reducing the stress on them. Blood pressure decreases if the walls of arteries are relaxed, significantly lowering the overall stress placed on the whole circulatory system. Potassium is even able to improve the transfer of fluids between neural membranes and reduce blood pressure in the brain. As a result, this mineral has been linked with a more effective cognitive function.

Taro roots are very rich in beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin and other powerful antioxidant compounds. Most of them are particularly active at eye level, protecting ocular cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Consuming taro roots can improve vision and prevent conditions such as cataract or macular degeneration.

A diet that includes taro roots will provide an optimal dose of vitamins A and C, which are needed for a healthy skin. These vitamins work together to improve the health of cells and heal various issues. They accelerate the healing rate of blemishes and wounds, making the skin glow and reducing the size of wrinkles. These roots are among the best natural remedies for skin health.

Taro roots are also a great choice for a strong immune system. This is mainly because of the very high amount of vitamin C, with a single serving providing a significant quantity. This natural antioxidant plays many roles in human health but is best known for increasing the number of white blood cells, which fight against all sorts of toxins and pathogens. The antioxidant activity can reduce the risk of diseases like cancer or heart diseases.

Culinary uses

Many recipes from around the world include taro roots, which are a very versatile ingredient well suited for both sweet and savoury dishes. Poi is a traditional dish of Hawaii that is served as a side alongside meat and can be prepared by simply mashing the roots. Indian curries also often include taro root cubes. In the USA it is mainly found as a flavoring agent in bubble tea. It can be used to replace potatoes and sweet potatoes in most recipes and is suited for simmering, boiling, roasting, frying or mashing.

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Comments

From Tamara - May-08-2019
Absolutely love desserts with taro, whether it's taro cake or bubble tea. Whenever I make my own stuff I boil them 2, 3 times so that they taste better.
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