Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Taro (Colocasia esculenta) :: Botany
Taro (Colocasia esculenta) Breakthrough improvements in the major grain crops have increased world food production dramatically during the last twenty seven years. The advancements in grain production, however, have not brought significant benefits to areas where root crops are the major staples. Therefore, more emphasis should be directed toward such root crops as taro, which is a staple food in many developing nations of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. Taro (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott), a member of the Araceae family, is an ancient crop grown throughout the humid tropics for its edible corms and leaves, as well as for its traditional uses. In the Pacific, the crop attained supreme importance in the diets of the inhabitants. Quantitatively it has become, and still remains, as the most important crop. Today the plant is widely used throughout the world, in Africa, Asia, the West Indies, and South America. Taro is of great importance in many places such as the Caribbean, Hawaii, the Solomons, American Samoa, West Samoa, the Philippines, Fiji, Sri Lanka, India, Nigeria, Indonesia, New Hebrides, Tonga, Niue, Papua, New Guinea, Egypt, and others. In these areas many people depend heavily upon taro as a staple food. More recently, taro was introduced by the U. S. Department of Agriculture to the southern United States as a supplement to potatoes. Taro constituted the staff of life for the Hawaiians when Captain Cook arrived in the islands in 1778. At that time an estimated three hundred thousand people in the islands lived chiefly on poi (a fermented or unfermented taro paste), sweet potato, fish, seaweed, and a few green vegetables and fruits. They used no grain or animal milk in their diet, and animal proteins were a rarity. Yet the good physique and excellent teeth of the Polynesian people testified to an adequate diet. Taro has played a similar role in the diet of the Melanesians and Micronesians, who ate boiled or baked corms and the leaves of taro. Young taro leaves are used as a main vegetable throughout Melanesia and Polynesia. They are boiled or covered with coconut cream, wrapped in banana or breadfruit leaves and cooked on hot stone. Thus, taro is one of the few major staple foods where both the leaf and the underground parts are equally important in the human diet. Within the last sixty years, investigators have confirmed the superiority of taro over other starchy staples.