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Taro: Best Not Eaten Raw

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Vegetables and Vegetarian Foods

Winter Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(4) pages: 30 to 31


This vegetable, which some call an herb, is actually a corm that grows in paddy fields. Corms are thickened underground stems of certain plants, the taro among them. Some also call them 'solid bulbs' and though common, less accurate as is calling them tropical roots.

Botanically known as Colocasia antiquorum, or C. esculenta, there are many different varieties and looks of this vegetable. People do eat all parts of them including the leaves and leaf-stems. It is best to cook them all because they are toxic to many folks if uncooked, particularly to children, the ill, and the elderly. So we repeat, it is best not to eat them raw.

Propagated for centuries in China and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, they also grow all over the world. Some of their leaves are white, others greenish, others purple. The Chinese know them as yu tou, wu tow, or yu nai, and they are popular as a vegetable and as an ornamental, the species esculenta may be the most popular vegetable in the world. In some places they are known as eddoe and when cultivated, can be the size of potatoes, large or small. Bigger ones have rough-looking exteriors and rough-looking ridges on them. Some are lumpy on their outsides, some hairy, too. After peeling, they can be white, pink, or purple on their insides; and they are often known as dasheen, a creole name indicating they came from China. This is but one of their many names, and the list keeps growing. As to when the taro plant began in China or elsewhere in Asia, or came there, we have read many different dates, and this needs more research.

Historians say taro did originate in either South East Asia, China, and/or India where it was first cultivated. They grow in these countries upland if well-watered, in flooded fields along with rice and lotus, also in lower areas. They did reach Egypt at the time of Christ, were planted there and elsewhere in Africa for dozens of centuries, and the Spanish and French introduced them to the tropics and the New World where many know this vegetable as a corruption of ‘de la Chine’ meaning that it came from China.

Most know that if their tops are cut off, the remaining part is planted and does grow from what is left. An original plant can produce three small or two large crops each year, that does not help when trying to date their first arrival.

Taro in Asia is more often the small round variety, and some do call it eddo and not taro. These are usually one and the same vegetable. Small ones are usually steamed in their skin; and do scrub the skin before steaming, then mash it when soft.

Native to this Southeast Asian region, taro is thought of as a root vegetable but it is really a corm or underground stem; and there is lots of its cultivation in the south of China, less in the north, and lots of it in Hong Kong where it is also popular. There, they call it wu rau or oo a in Taiwan. It is appreciated for its small starch grains said to be good for children, the ill, and the elderly.

This perennial is known by many other names including coco, hung nga, malanga, sato imo, tannia, tannier, woo tau; and still other names in many other places. Most people know it better when served hot than cold or cool because when cool, it is dense and waxy. Most like it pureed. Few know that half a cup is one hundred calories, an excellent source of potassium, and a fairly good source of iron and fiber. This vegetable has less protein than potatoes or yams, so from a nutritional perspective, this staple is not as healthy as those vegetables are; but it does stay longer in storage than they do.

Its toxicity comes from crystals of calcium oxalate found most often just under the skin, particularly in large corms. There are some modern strains that have none, and they are cultivated specifically for that. If from your yard, we recommend not eating them uncooked. Cooking reduces this problem so better safe than sorry.

The Chinese call the large taro bun long wo tau, the smaller ones hung nga woo tau. In the south of China, they are most often boiled and peeled or peeled and boiled, then eaten out of hand. They are particularly popular during Mid-Autumn festival, and sold on the streets then.

Those that grow taro know it is best planted deep and in moist soil. There it resists drought and cold, and needs half a year to mature. It is best harvested by hand or with hand tools, the leaves best roasted, baked, boiled, or fried. It is known for its nutty flavor, and the Chinese like it plain, in sweet dishes, or sweet drinks, and thin sliced and fried crisp like potato chips.

The corms have more that twenty-five percent of ones minimum daily requirement of Vitamin B6, twenty percent of Vitamin E, and twenty-one percent RDA for manganese. The leaves have thirty percent of their Vitamin E equivalent, thirty-eight percent of daily needs for Vitamin B2, thirty-two percent for folate, sixty-three percent for Vitamin C, and one hundred percent for Vitamin K. Thus, from a nutritional standpoint, this is a very healthy vegetable.

Called gabi in the Philippines and kalo in Hawaii; in the latter, they prefer it very, very long-cooked where it is known as poi. When fermented, the Chinese call it nan ru, and they also like it in a marinade with red bean curd, rice wine, oyster sauce, garlic, five-spice powder, and a little ground white pepper; also with pork and/or fried yams.

Those that grow taro do appreciate the large amount of growth this plant has in the first few months. They often make cuttings and use the parts cut off in mixed dishes. After harvest, they cover the corms not used with soil or keep them in the ground and dig them up months later. In almost every Chinatown, one can purchase taro fresh, as chips, and in many other ways. They are seen in markets at several ages, the older varieties with brown flecks on a cut edge enabling one to see them. Some say only to purchase them when old and big. Accounting for any toxicity, we suggest changing the water at least once to reduce any. We also recommend using them in other starch recipes such as those that follow.
This vegetable, which some call an herb, is actually a corm that grows in paddy fields. Corms are thickened underground stems of certain plants, the taro among them. Some also call them ''solid bulbs'' and though common, less accurate as is calling them tropical roots.

Botanically known as Colocasia antiquorum, or C. esculenta, there are many different varieties and looks of this vegetable. People do eat all parts of them including the leaves and leaf-stems. It is best to cook them all because they are toxic to many folks if uncooked, particularly to children, the ill, and the elderly. So we repeat, it is best not to eat them raw.

Propagated for centuries in China and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, they also grow all over the world. Some of their leaves are white, others greenish, others purple. The Chinese know them as yu tou, wu tow, or yu nai, and they are popular as a vegetable and as an ornamental, the species esculenta may be the most popular vegetable in the world. In some places they are known as eddoe and when cultivated, can be the size of potatoes, large or small. Bigger ones have rough-looking exteriors and rough-looking ridges on them. Some are lumpy on their outsides, some hairy, too. After peeling, they can be white, pink, or purple on their insides; and they are often known as dasheen, a creole name indicating they came from China. This is but one of their many names, and the list keeps growing. As to when the taro plant began in China or elsewhere in Asia, or came there, we have read many different dates, and this needs more research.

Historians say taro did originate in either South East Asia, China, and/or India where it was first cultivated. They grow in these countries upland if well-watered, in flooded fields along with rice and lotus, also in lower areas. They did reach Egypt at the time of Christ, were planted there and elsewhere in Africa for dozens of centuries, and the Spanish and French introduced them to the tropics and the New World where many know this vegetable as a corruption of ‘de la Chine’ meaning that it came from China.

Most know that if their tops are cut off, the remaining part is planted and does grow from what is left. An original plant can produce three small or two large crops each year, that does not help when trying to date their first arrival.

Taro in Asia is more often the small round variety, and some do call it eddo and not taro. These are usually one and the same vegetable. Small ones are usually steamed in their skin; and do scrub the skin before steaming, then mash it when soft.

Native to this Southeast Asian region, taro is thought of as a root vegetable but it is really a corm or underground stem; and there is lots of its cultivation in the south of China, less in the north, and lots of it in Hong Kong where it is also popular. There, they call it wu rau or oo a in Taiwan. It is appreciated for its small starch grains said to be good for children, the ill, and the elderly.

This perennial is known by many other names including coco, hung nga, malanga, sato imo, tannia, tannier, woo tau; and still other names in many other places. Most people know it better when served hot than cold or cool because when cool, it is dense and waxy. Most like it pureed. Few know that half a cup is one hundred calories, an excellent source of potassium, and a fairly good source of iron and fiber. This vegetable has less protein than potatoes or yams, so from a nutritional perspective, this staple is not as healthy as those vegetables are; but it does stay longer in storage than they do.

Its toxicity comes from crystals of calcium oxalate found most often just under the skin, particularly in large corms. There are some modern strains that have none, and they are cultivated specifically for that. If from your yard, we recommend not eating them uncooked. Cooking reduces this problem so better safe than sorry.

The Chinese call the large taro bun long wo tau, the smaller ones hung nga woo tau. In the south of China, they are most often boiled and peeled or peeled and boiled, then eaten out of hand. They are particularly popular during Mid-Autumn festival, and sold on the streets then.

Those that grow taro know it is best planted deep and in moist soil. There it resists drought and cold, and needs half a year to mature. It is best harvested by hand or with hand tools, the leaves best roasted, baked, boiled, or fried. It is known for its nutty flavor, and the Chinese like it plain, in sweet dishes, or sweet drinks, and thin sliced and fried crisp like potato chips.

The corms have more that twenty-five percent of ones minimum daily requirement of Vitamin B6, twenty percent of Vitamin E, and twenty-one percent RDA for manganese. The leaves have thirty percent of their Vitamin E equivalent, thirty-eight percent of daily needs for Vitamin B2, thirty-two percent for folate, sixty-three percent for Vitamin C, and one hundred percent for Vitamin K. Thus, from a nutritional standpoint, this is a very healthy vegetable.

Called gabi in the Philippines and kalo in Hawaii; in the latter, they prefer it very, very long-cooked where it is known as poi. When fermented, the Chinese call it nan ru, and they also like it in a marinade with red bean curd, rice wine, oyster sauce, garlic, five-spice powder, and a little ground white pepper; also with pork and/or fried yams.

Those that grow taro do appreciate the large amount of growth this plant has in the first few months. They often make cuttings and use the parts cut off in mixed dishes. After harvest, they cover the corms not used with soil or keep them in the ground and dig them up months later. In almost every Chinatown, one can purchase taro fresh, as chips, and in many other ways. They are seen in markets at several ages, the older varieties with brown flecks on a cut edge enabling one to see them. Some say only to purchase them when old and big. Accounting for any toxicity, we suggest changing the water at least once to reduce any. We also recommend using them in other starch recipes such as those that follow.
Taro Chips
Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 pounds of taro, peeled, cut into big chunks
2/3 cup wheat starch
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup soft lard
oil for deep frying
Preparation:
1. Steam taro until soft, then add all the other ingredients mixing them well.
2. Put this mixture in a thin baking pan and cool it there until set.
3. Then slice it thinly and deep fry the slices until tan and crisp. Cool them on paper towels and serve the chips at room temperature.
Taro Puffs
Ingredients:
1½ pounds taro, peeled
2/3 cup wheat starch
1½ teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
½ cup soft lard
4 dried black mushrooms, soaked until soft, stems discarded,caps diced finely
½ cup bamboo shoots, diced
12 ounces ground pork
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for deep frying
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 Tablespoons oyster sauce
Preparation:
1. Boil the taro or steam it until soft; about half an hour, then mash it or cut it into cubes.
2. Mix mushrooms and bamboo shoots and set them aside.
3. Heat the wok or pan, add the oil, then the pork and stir-fry until it loses its pink color. Next, mix in the cornstarch and sesame oil and set this in a shallow dish to cool.
4. In a bowl or on a board, mix the taro root, wheat starch, half cup of boiling water, salt and sugar, and the lard and knead until well blended.
5. Set this and the taro mixture, both covered separately, in the refrigerator for four or more hours.
6. Make balls of the cooked taro dough mixture and stuff each one with a teaspoon of the pork mixture. Then seal so the pork is inside the taro mixture.
7. Deep fry a handful of the balls in preheated oil until tan, drain them and fry a few more. Cut each one in half and serve them hot or warm.
Cantonese Taro Soup
Ingredients:
1 pound taro, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 ounces tapioca pearls
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup coconut milk
Preparation:
1. In a large pot, add two cups of cold water, the taor, and simmer fr one hour.
2. Mash the taro and return it to the pot.
3. In a small pot, add the tapioca and two cups of cold water. Bring this to the boil, then remove the pot from the heat source. Set it aside for ten minutes, then strain in a fine colander under running water.
4. Mix with the mashed taro, and serve hot or cold.
Stir-fried Taro
Ingredients:
½ cup vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
1 pound taro, peeled and shredded
1 teaspoon salt
Preparation:
1. Heat a wok or a fry pan, add the oil and brown the onion and the ginger, then add the taro and salt and stir-fry this for two minutes.
2. Add half cup of cold water, bring this to the boil and reduce the heat. Simmer until the taro is soft, about eight minutes. Serve hot as is or mash before serving.
Taro with Pork
Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 large piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 pounds pork, cut into small irregular pieces
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 pounds taro, peeled and cut as was the pork
Preparation:
1. Heat wok or large fry pan, add the oil, then the onion pieces. When they are soft, add the ginger and stir-fry all until browned, then add the taro, soy sauce, and sugar and stir-fry for two minutes.
2. Add the pork and stir well, then simmer covered for thirty minutes. Remove the cover and boil to reduce the liquid. When almost dry, serve it hot.
Pork, Red Bean Curd, and Taro
Ingredients:
3 cubes fermented red bean curd, mashed
3 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
3 Tablespoons oyster sauce
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 pound pork belly, cut into half-inch cubes, then blanched for two minutes
1 cup vegetable oil
1 pound taro, peeled and cut into two-inch cubes
Preparation:
1. In a wok, pot, or casserole, mix the fermented bean curd, rice wine, oyster sauce, garlic, five spice powder, and ground white pepper. Set two tablespoons aside and mix the rest with the pork and set this aside for an hour.
2. Heat wok or a pot, add the oil and the belly pork, and fry for three minutes until browned. Then remove the pork and place it on paper towels.
3. Fry half the taro until browned, remove it and add it to the pork. Then fry the other half of the taro, and return the pork and the rest of the taro to the wok, pot, or casserole and fry this for one more minute. Discard any excess oil.
4. Put the pork and taro in a heat-proof bowl, stir well, and put the rest of the ingredients over this, one by one, and stir. Steam this over boiling water for an hour, check if it is tender, and if not steam for another twenty minutes and check it again. Continue until the pork is tender. Serve in a bowl as is, or slice and serve the pork on a platter, the rest around it.
Tao Shih-Yeh Style
Ingredients:
1 pound taro root, peeled and cubed
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 chicken, with skin and bones, chopped into two-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
10 cooked chestnuts
10 cooked Chinese red dates, pits removed
1 cup cooked, left-over sea foods
6 cups chicken stock
3 Tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
3 slices peeled fresh ginger
3 cloves peeled fresh garlic
3 Tablespoons flour
Preparation
1. Heat wok or a large fry pan. add taro, potato, and chicken pieces, and fry until crisp and tan.
2. In a large heat-proof casserole, remove these ingredients and set then aside, and add all other ingredients and steam for two hours, checking to be sure there is enough liquid, then add the removed items. Simmer for another hour, and add half cup of water, as needed.
3. Remove casserole to a trivet, and serve.

                                                                                                                                                       
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