Taro is a common name for the corms and tubers of several plants in the family Araceae Of these, Colocasia esculenta is the most widely cultivated, and is the subject of this article. More specifically, this article describes the ‘dasheen’ form of taro; another variety is called eddoe.
Taro is native to southeast Asia. It is a perennial, tropical plant primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, and as a leaf vegetable and is considered a staple in African, Oceanic and Asian cultures. It is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants. Colocasia is thought to have originated in the Indo-Malayan region, perhaps in eastern India and Bangladesh, and spread eastward into Southeast Asia, eastern Asia, and the Pacific islands; westward to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean; and then southward and westward from there into East Africa and West Africa, from whence it spread to the Caribbean and Americas. It is known by many local names and often referred to as ‘elephant ears’ when grown as an ornamental plant.
The corms are roasted, baked or boiled and the natural sugars give a sweet nutty flavour. The starch is easily digestible and grains are fine and small and often used for baby food. The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.