(What’s that food?)

Taro is a tropical root vegetable that originated in India and Southeast Asia, and it is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated plants. The most commonly eaten part of the taro plant is its starchy corm-similar to a tuber-and is a staple of worldwide cuisines, including in Africa, China, India, and throughout the South Pacific and the Caribbean. It cannot be eaten raw and must be cooked. It is toxic in its raw form due to calcium oxalate, associated with kidney stones, and the presence of needle-shaped raphides in the plant cells. Leaves from the plant can also be eaten, if cooked, and are rich in vitamins and minerals.

The corms are generally creamy white and light purple in colour. Taro has been referred to as the “potato of the tropics” due to similarities in shape (it kind of looks like a hairy version of a potato), taste, and preparation methods. It’s often eaten roasted, steamed, stir-fried, or boiled, and is said to have a sweet, nutty flavour, with hints of vanilla, and a taste similar to sweet potatoes.

Photo credit: Evan Ceretti

It is often used to accompany main courses in China. It is mashed into a puree and used in sweets such as taro cake, which is a delicacy that’s eaten during Chinese New Year. It’s also commonly found in other sweets, and sometimes sugar is added right on top of the taro, and is used to flavour bubble tea and ice cream. Taro can be found at select Asian grocers in Charlottetown.

This worldwide staple is rich in potassium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, and fiber. You might see taro alongside potatoes and sweet potatoes in ‘healthy’ brands of vegetable chips at supermarkets. If it’s your first time using taro, just think of it like a potato and consider making delicious taro fries.

About Evan Ceretti

Evan is a vegetarian foodie and freelancer based in Charlottetown. His two greatest loves are food and travel, which just so happen to be the perfect pairing. A graduate of Holland College’s journalism program, and of UPEI’s print journalism program, Evan enjoys writing about the local food scene as well as writing about gastronomic journeys from the other side of the world. He’s had to luxury of visiting 30 countries and traveling for more than 1,000 days. In Charlottetown, you’ll either see him riding his bicycle, eating curry, taking photos, or playing ultimate frisbee. Follow him on IG @Evanontheroad, and on Facebook at Evan on the Road.

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