Taro and its uses

Taro is probably one of the most versatile plants on earth! However it is one that you have to know how how to grow it, how to harvest it, how to store the different bits of it and how to prepare it and how to cook it and then lastly how to eat it.  It is a complex plant but worth it if you master it as it is a complete plant that nothing is wasted.

To start with planting moist or wet soil, almost boggy preferably, make a hole as deep as the size you want your taro to be then stick your taro top in as far as you can only fill in a little to stop the top coming out if it rains. 

While the plant is growing the young leaves are very good for you and tasty but are full of oxalic acid! this need to be removed by blanching in boiling water for 30 seconds then washed before cooking as you would spinach. Us Islanders prefer it to spinach as it has a nicer flavor as long as the oxalic acid is removed and we cook it in coconut milk with fish and the famous Polisami or corned beef wrapped in leaves these are the leaves. 

Harvesting- put a pole in along side as deep as the taro plant was planted and pull sideways the taro will dome out without breaking.

Taro if not cooked right can be dry and hard so it is important to boil it slow and long and let the centre of the piece cook.

The stems just below the leaves down to about a quarter of the way down makes a lovely dish also called baba (pronounced Mbamba in Fijian) where it is blanched in boiling water for a minute then the skin is stripped off with a sharp knife then it is shredded with fork. lastly a cup thick coconut milk that has been mixed with a cup lemon juice is poured over it . this can be served straight but often accompanied with freshly chopped chillies

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  • The taro just described has side offshoots that has little taro roots coming off it and these can be very nice as little roasts if boiled first then roasted with your roast a 10 minute boil then roast with your chicken hum. The general way i time my cooking the piece of taro is twice the time the same size potato would take as it is more dense. the dark coloured taro is not edible!

  • i have just looked up the name Bun Long Taro and have found out that it is what we call dalo ni wai or taro for water and is the taro that I grow in my storm water drain. I use it extensively as my staple taro. I use the leaves and the stems as well as the roots I harvest when I see the root showing just above the soil as I said before. This would be an ideal Taro in a aquaponic system. With the leaves only pick the very young leaves as they have less oxalic acid to wash out.

  • Janet the way we tell that our taro is matua or ready is when the top of the root shows just above the soil, but only just as if it goes too far up the texture of the flesh becomes sticky and slimy and the taste is not pleasant. I am not sure if the stems of this cultivar are pleasant to use either as I do not know this but the planting technique whould be the same as taro grows the same no matter what the cultivar.

  • I grow Chinese taro - the Bun Long Taro cultivar, I don't know how it is different but we only eat this type. It's easy enough to grow but I am never sure when it's time to pull out of the ground. The optimum taro is when its texture is floury (about steaming for 15min) but often it's not.
  • Hello Christa, there are many varieties of Taro. The variety that grows in the creeks around Chermside and towards Zilmere are the Toxic variety do not use those unless you want a sore stomach. What we call the Samoan variety is a nice pale pink fleshed variety that has pale red stems and is not a big plant with small leaves (for taro)  and grows slowly but gives a firm but round root after 19 months if it is planted about 20 to 30 cm deep. The leaves are sweat too and the stems are good for the baba as well.  For Brisbane conditions I would say this would be the best variety. I have some but it is not my main one as my main one I grow is in my storm water drain and that variety would not cope with the flood and drought of the drain.

  • Hello David, Thank you for sharing those great hints on growing and cooking Taro. Do you use the canned corned beef?  I have a large taro plant growing well in a big drum.

    The trouble for us non-islanders(Samoans} is we don't know which Taro variety to grow.  The root can be quite toxic if you don't know what you are doing. When you say cook it long and slowly, roughly how long is that before it get soft in the center.  

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