SCIENTIFIC NAME: Colocasia esculenta, Xanthosoma spp.
FAMILY: Araceae

There is a lot of confusion about the diverse names given to the different taros.

The hardiest is Colocasia esculenta. It has a large central bulb and smaller side bulbs which are eaten if big enough, or used for replanting. They can grow with little water but plenty of mulch.

The other grown widely has a common name of Xanthosoma. It has no side bulbs (except for tiny little bulbils, planting material). Only the leaves of Xanthosoma are eaten - not the tubers. These taros need lots of water.

The best planting material is when the tuber is harvested: the top leafy portion is cut off with a bit of tuber and replanted in a damp spot. Six months of summer warmth and water should give you a good eatable tuber. If damp and well-mulched, the tubers can stay in the ground for later eating, but little plants growing from the bulbils should be removed. They can be planted, but will only produce small tubers. Using the method above should produce a big tuber in six months.

All taros must be cooked before eating. Young leaves can also be cooked and eaten. Taros are bland and need flavouring or making into deep fried chips. Its texture and flavour is delicate, and the fine-grained starch absorbs much less oil than potato chips. Taro chips become crisp without being greasy.

Marjorie Spear

DATE: November 1991

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