Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Taking on the Taro.

I do not need to search the 1.3 million words on this blog to be pretty sure I have not covered taro in any previous posts. Taro is a complete mystery to me – although slightly less mysterious (in theory anyway) now that I have done a little reading on the topic. Let me share, in brief, my findings and tentative thoughts on taro, and please, do add value via the comments (or email, if you prefer.)

The name ‘taro’ is applied to a range of plants from several families, it most usually applies to the species Colocasia esculenta, a member of the Araceae (arum lily) family. It is a tropical plant which is believed to have originated in South Asia or South India, from whence it spread widely to become a staple in many parts of Africa, Southern India and the Pacific region.

I came across some recipes for taro in a nice little book called How to use Hawaiian fruit and food products (Honolulu, 1912) – which is how it came to be the topic for the day. The author of the book acknowledges that “The taro, or kalo, though not a fruit, is a typical Hawaiian vegetable. It is very acrid, and stings the mouth if under cooked,” and that it is commonly “boiled, baked, fried, made into ‘cakes.’ The plant is grown primarily for its starchy root, but the leaves are also eaten, as the recipes from the book demonstrate.

Cut skin from taro, divide into 2 inch sections, and cover with salted water in a saucepan. Boil 40 minutes to 1 hour until tender. The skin may be left on, if it is well cleaned, and peeled after boiling. Serve with butter.

Cook taro with a stew in place of potatoes.

Cut skin from taro and boil in salted water 20 minutes. Take from water and place on pan in hot oven for ½ hour. Serve with butter and salt.

Cut skin from taro, and if large, cut taro in half. Put in oven and bake for 1 hour. Break with the hands into individual pieces and serve with butter and salt.

Cut boiled taro into thin pieces. Sprinkle with salt, and fry in butter or lard.

Mash hot boiled taro with a potato masher until free from lumps. Form into small cakes with the hands, using as little water as possible. Place in buttered pan, and bake ½ hour in hot oven.

Make same as baked taro cakes, and fry in butter, or lard, or in deep fat. Drain and sprinkle with salt. For breakfast taro cakes, boil and mash taro night before. In morning moisten with water, and shape.

Dilute paiai* with water and expose to fermentation. Eat with salt fish, or as a porridge with sugar and milk. Also use to thicken gravy instead of flour.
[*Bake taro and pound until free from lumps. Press and pack it. This will keep for months. ]

Poi Cocktail.
To a glass of milk add 2 tbsp poi. Stir this into the milk and sweeten if desired. This is served to invalids.

Take the young, tender leaves of the taro plant, and strip stems as with beans. Boil, changing water 3 times and adding pinch of soda. Cook until tender, 45 minutes in all. After last water, little milk may added and salt and pepper. Mix well before serving. Cut hard boiled egg in slices and lay on top.

Boil 3 bundles of luau as above. Stew a chicken, and when done, pour off the gravy and mix chicken with the luau. Grate 2 coconuts and pour over the chicken as a gravy. Squid and
luau is made in the same way.

Cook luau as above, using 1 bundle. Boil 1 qt. milk. Add 2 tbsp butter and luau which has been pressed through a sieve. Stir and season with salt and pepper.

Take out pistils from flowers and strip strings from stems. Boil flowers and stems in water with pinch of soda, changing water twice. Cook 45 minutes in all. Serve as a vegetable. These can be bought in small bundles at the market.

Take stalks of taro plant which come on taro above the tuber. Scrape them and slice. Place in cold water for ½ hour, then put into salted boiling water with pinch of soda, and cook until tender. Pour off water. Season with salt and pepper, and serve on buttered toast with little white


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