Taro /Colocasia Esculenta/
Taro is an evergreen, perennial plant that is a very important, staple food crop in many parts of the tropics. It has large green heart shaped leaves with long, fleshy stems, growing up to about 1.8m.
Taro is cultivated for its edible starchy corm as well as for its leaves and stem as a green vegetable. Some taros are grown for their large central tubers like Giant Swamp Taro while others like Japanese Taro or Dasheen are favored for the numerous tender sweet cormels that grow from the side of the central corm.
Size, texture and flavour vary greatly between different varieties.
Corms can be peeled then boiled, mashed, baked or fried as chips etc., in much the same way as potatoes.
They can also be dried and then grated to make a flour or a starch.
Young leaves are cooked or used as a wrapper before steaming or baking food.
Stems are good peeled and boiled.
The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that irritate the mouth and cause an unpleasant sensation if they are eaten raw. These are easily removed with cooking or dehydrating.
Japanese (Dasheen), Purple Spot, Bun Long, Chinese, Samoan Pink, Swamp, Tahitian, Pacific, Hong Kong
Humid subtropics to tropics
Taro needs a long frost-free growing season. It prefers a lightly shaded position and a very fertile and moisture-retentive soil that is rich in organic matter. If you have a low, boggy part of the garden, this is the place to plant your taro! There are wet and dry varieties some growing best in a boggy location, while others just need consistent moisture.
Most taros will tolerate occasional drought conditions and will go dormant but will then Spring back to life with the rain.
Grow different varieties for diversity and to protect against yearly variations in rainfall.
Taro is more productive when densely planted, so let your taro grow into a dense patch or intercrop with bananas and papayas.
Side dress with compost or liquid fertiliser every three months.
Plant taro corms in clumps a few centimetres below the soil surface at 50cm spacing’s.
Separate plantings of different varieties for ease of identification.
There are two ways to propagate taro:
1. Plant from the small side corms that grow on the side of a mature corm or
2. Neatly cut the top off a mature corm cut it into pieces with at least 1 ‘eye’ each and let the cut heal before planting.
Taro corms must be cooked
Risks and weed potential
Some taro varieties have escaped cultivation and have colonized creeks.
Grow away from drains and waterways.
Harvesting & Processing
The crop matures in 9-12 months. Harvest when you are happy with the size or wait until mature when the leaves start to yellow.
Tubers lift from the ground with ease. Replant any small corms.