Taro is a starchy corm which originated probably in Malaysia and India, where it still grows wild. It can grow in wet or dry places although there is one variety which has been bred to only grow in dry ones. It has heart shaped leaves which can be eaten like spinach, and the root looks like a Jerusalem artichoke only bigger. In Urdu it is arvi and kachalo in Punjabi. It was cultivated in the Indian subcontinent by 5000BC. The Hawaiians call it kalo and have really taken to this root over the centuries. It comes into their Creation myth, and they believe that people are related to this root. It is now found throughout SE Asia and the Pacific Islands. It is known by other names around the world apart from those already listed, in Africa it is the old cocoyam and edoe or eddo is another name for it. It arrived in the Caribbean at some stage, and is now grown in many countries around the globe.
  The taro that grows on dry land is has a dark purple skin and white roots, and has a nutty flavour when cooked, and it must be cooked as it contains calcium oxalate a crystal-like substance that breaks down when cooked. You should take care when peeling taro as it can cause skin irritation.
  The Hawaiians hold this root sacred, and there are various ways of using it. It is used in traditional medicine, and when made into a purple paste they call poi, it turns up at the luaus or pig feasts. Research has been done into the health benefits of poi, and as the root is highly nutritious and easy to digest, it is good for infants who fail to thrive. Recent research has found that the root may be liver protective and can detoxify the liver, although the experiments were carried out in vitro on rat livers. It is also good for people who suffer from allergies.
Taro leaves
  In 2004 researchers Amy C. Brown and Ana Valiere found that poi might be beneficial to sufferers of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), diabetes, a depressed immune system, inadequate lactose digestion and some cancers, and Dr. Brown and others published results in 2005 which suggested that poi “might have novel tumour-specific anti-cancer activities”( Phytotherapy Research Journal 2005).
  It is believed that taro corms can help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, and may help protect us from cardio-vascular disease and cancer.
Taro field
  Taro corms contain vitamins A, C, E and K plus the B-complex ones of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B6, folate B12 and pantothenic acid (B5) and choline. It also contains the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, sodium, zinc and selenium, as well as Omega-3 and-6 fatty acids. There are 18 amino acids in the corm and bet-carotene, so it is packed with nutrients and a very healthy addition to a diet, which is good as it is a staple food in some Asian and African countries.
  It was also a staple in ancient Egypt and from there it became known to the Greeks and Romans. They ate not only the root or corm, but also the leaves which they say taste a bit like cabbage. I have only eaten the corm, which tasted like a starchy Jerusalem artichoke to me, in fact when I first saw it that’s what I thought it was. You can do the same with a taro corm as with a potato, a sweet potato or even a yam, and add them to soups or stews to thicken them.
  The leaf juice is used to treat piles and as a laxative in some traditional medicines systems, while in Hawaii poi is mixed with arrowroot for diarrhoea. The heated tubers are applied to joints to ease rheumatic pains, and the raw juice is mixed with other plant juices for fevers. The ash of a burnt coconut shell is mixed with grated corms for thrush (candida) and it is also used for insect stings. In Pakistan and India taro corms are sold on the street in much the same way as in Britain you can buy a baked potato at a stall and take it away to eat.
  Because taro corms contain a fair amount of sodium, you may not want to add salt to them. Try this recipe and is you haven’t got taro you can substitute potatoes or yams.

½ kilo beef, cubed
4 large taro corms, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tamarind (imli) paste
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsps dry-fried coriander seeds, ground
1 cup water
oil for frying

Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin and mustard seed; fry until they release their aroma.
Add the onion, garlic and curry leaves and fry until translucent. Then add the meat and seal it on all sides.
Add the taro corms and fry for 3-4 minutes.
Now add the tomatoes, chilli powder and coriander and fry for 4 minutes.
Add the tamarind pulp cover, with water put a lid on the pot and cook for 30 mins.
Add the garam masala and black pepper, freshly ground if you want to use it (I do, but I can’t not have black pepper).
You shouldn’t need to add more water, but if you do add a little now.
Cook for 10 to 15 minutes then turn off the heat and let it settle for about 10 minutes.
Serve with rice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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