Botanical Name: Colocasia esculenta
Some other names: Elephant ears, Dalo, Kalo, Talles, Dasheen and many other localised names throughout the world
How to grow it: Taro is a perrenial clumper which will spread quite rapidly from the planting of just one corm. I wouldn’t consider it invasive, but it’s hard to get rid of once establlshed. Grows to about 1.5 metres or more depending on the variety.
It’s essentially a tropical plant that likes long hot summers, but will grow in cooler climates provided there’s no heavy frosts. In cooler areas it will die back for winter and resprout in spring. Does well in sun or shade, but if you’re growing it out of the sub-trpocs/tropics, I’d give it full sun.
It needs water and preferably lots of it. Will grow very well in boggy situations or even shallow water – perfect for the edge of ponds. It doesn’t need much fertiliser to survive, but will respond with much larger leaves & corms if it gets regular feeding.
Will grow well in large pots. and is a great contender for growing in closed containers with no drainage – old bathtubs and the like.
Propogation is easy once you have one patch established – just replant a harvested corm, or collect some of the little side suckers
Nutrition: Leaves area good source of vitamins A, B, & C with calcium & potassium
Tubers are a good source of protein, very digestible starch, vitamins A, B, C, & E, potassium, manganese, phosphorous & magnesium
Using it in the kitchen:
Two cautions go with using Taro. Firstly, make sure it’s an edible variety – there are many ornamental varieties of “Elephant Ears”, many of them poisonous. Secondly, Taro is toxic raw – both the leaves & corms must be cooked before eating. Leaves and stems should be boiled in water before use, and the corms must have their skins removed & cooked.
Provided the above cautions are taken into account, all parts of the plant are edible & delicious.
The leaves and stems can be cooked into curries, soups, stir fries & casseroles after preboiling. The stems provide a nice texture to the dish.
Corms can be added to all the same hot dishes and are excellent as a roast or boiled vegetable or cut into chips. Cooked corms are also commonly used in desserts.
One of the best survival foods as it is so hardy (if your climate is suitable), all parts can be used and it can be harvested at any time of year. That’s why it’s so commonly used around the world.