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Cooking with Taro



Taro was brought to Hawai’i by early Polynesian voyagers in their canoes and became the staple of the Hawaiian food system and also holds great cultural and cosmological significance. Taro is also a nutritional powerhouse which is well suited to tropical climates and is an important food security crop throughout the Pacific, parts of Africa and Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. Both taro root and taro leaf can be eaten, and each part of the plant satisfies different nutritional needs. The root is calorie dense, high in carbohydrates and contains nutrients such as minerals, Vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Both the leaf and the root are higher in protein than many other greens or root crops, respectively. The leaf contains nutrients and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, Vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Additionally, taro is one of the few non-animal sources of zinc, making it a great addition to a plant-based diet.





A WORD OF CAUTION: Please make sure to cook both the taro leaf and root thoroughly to break down the sharp calcium oxalate crystals present in all parts of the plant. If taro is eaten undercooked it can cause serious burning and itching sensations in the mouth and throat. Based on personal experience, different varieties of taro seem to require different cook times, and the cook times suggested in different recipes may not be sufficient for all taro varieties. If you are at all unfamiliar with cooking taro, we’d recommend following a recipe and then sampling a very small bite. If you notice a tingling sensation, continue to cook for longer.




Sources:

[1] Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawai`i: KALO

[2] Temesgen, Melese; Negussie, Retta. Nutritional Potential, Health and Food Security Benefits of Taro Colocasia Esculenta (L.): A Review. Food Science and Quality Management, Vol.36, 2015. 20137 (iiste.org)

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