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taro root

Pronunciation: [TAHR-oh; TEHR-oh]

A starchy, potatolike tuber with a brown, fibrous skin and gray-white (sometimes purple-tinged) flesh. Taro is grown in tropical areas and is an important starchy food in West Africa, the Caribbean and Polynesian islands. A variety of taro grown in the southern United States since the early 1900s is called dasheen. Taro roots range in length from about 5 inches to a foot or more, and can be several inches wide. Though acrid-tasting in its raw state, the root has a somewhat nutlike flavor when cooked. It's also extremely easy to digest. It should be noted, however, that some varieties are highly toxic unless thoroughly cooked. The taro root has large edible leaves (called callaloo in the Caribbean) which can be prepared and eaten like mustard or turnip greens. Taro root can be found in ethnic markets and some specialty produce stores. Choose roots that are firm and smooth and refrigerate up to 4 days. Much like the potato, the taro root may be prepared in a variety of ways including boiling, frying and baking. In Hawaii, it's used to make the famous (or infamous) poi. See also malanga.