Monday, June 18, 2012

Taro - Hawaiian Staple

 Taro - Hawaiian Staple
by Sonia Martinez

Taro, or kalo, as it was known to early Hawaiians, achieved primacy in the Hawaiian Islands as the most important crop and was produced in a large number of cultivated varieties.

The cultivation of taro was associated with the god Kane, procreator and giver of life, and in the Hawaiian legends, it was considered the first born from the union of sky father (Wakea) and earth mother (Papa) and as such was considered first in birth, and genealogically superior to man himself.

Taro (Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum), is a member of the aracea family, which includes such well-known plants as philodendron, dieffenbachia (dumb cane), anthuriums, pothos, caladiums and alocasia, to name just a few. Humans have cultivated it for thousands of years, and it is found in most tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Variations of taro grow in the Caribbean Islands, where they are known as malanga, name and gueaguei.

For fast cooking of taro, peel and cut in pieces. Pour enough water to cover and boil. If it is to be used in poi, cook longer. Mash while still hot. Serve as you would mashed potato or use in other recipes. On its own, taro is very bland, but complements the tastes of other, richer foods.

Taro, in the form of poi, is the primary starch in the native Hawaiian diet. Easily digested by babies and older kupuna, it is part of a very healthy, nutritious diet.

Note: Some varieties of raw or uncooked taro contain tiny crystals of a substance called calcium oxalate, a natural pesticide. Chewing raw or half-cooked taro can set free these needle-like crystals and cause an uncomfortable itching in the mouth and throat. Cooking the taro throuroughly will prevent this. When prparing recipes that include grated taro, it is a good idea to cook the root before grating. In the Hawaiian Islands, taro plants are eaten after thoroughly boiled to destroy the toxins. The leaf (luau - also the name of the feast using taro leaves) must be boiled at least 45 minutes over low heat, whereas corms are boiled in a deep pot with salted water for at least an hour or until soft.

Contact writer Sonia Maritinez:

Cream of Taro Soup
1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 medium minced onion, 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, 1 1/2 cups water, 3/4 cup taro, boiled and mashed, 1 cup coconut cream, Hawaiian sea salt to taste, freshly ground pepper to taste.

Saute onion and grated ginger in butter. Add mashed cooked taro and mix well. Add water while stirring contsntly. Cook for 5 minutes. Pour coconut cream into the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot. Can substitute  with breadfruit instead. Serves 2. Recipe can be easily doubled.

After serving, you can add your choice of a dollop of fresh yogurt or creme fraiche, fresh chopped green garden onions or a dash of your favorite hot sauce.

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