Behind this mysterious name are hidden fortune-telling cards for predicting the future, which are now in vogue. It is just a plant whose tubers feed many millions of people in Southeast Asia and South West Africa. Taro occupies more than 1 million hectares and 80% is concentrated in Africa. Nigeria produces about 4 million tons, Ghana - 1.8 million tons, China - 1.6 million tons, Cameroon - about 1 million tons.But under this name are hidden plants not only of different species, but also of different genera belonging to the Aroid family.
Edible taro plant (Colocasia esculenta syn. Colocasia antiquorum L.) resembles a very large calla. It has been cultivated in Southeast Asia for more than 2,000 years, and according to some sources, in India for more than 5,000 years. The native land of the plant is Malaysia and South China. The plant is characterized by the fact that in nature it produces very few seeds. Therefore, the main method of reproduction both in nature and on plantations is vegetative, with tubers. Interestingly, there are plants with a very diverse set of chromosomes 26, 28, 30, 36, 38, 42, 44, 46, 48, 52, 58, 84 or even 116 (most often 28 and 42). This probably explains the wide variety of plants in terms of moisture requirements, the length of the period before harvest, and, in part, the fact that plants practically do not form seeds.
Another genus - Xanthosoma - comes from South America. Long before Columbus' expeditions, the Indians were growing Xanthosoma sagittifolium Schott. Its greatest diversity is found in the Antilles, where it grows mainly in open and damp areas.
Nutritional value of taro
Considering that taro is more widespread and well-known, we will mostly talk about it. Taro roots contain 18-20% starch (sometimes up to 30%), 0.8% protein (according to other sources, dried underground parts contain up to 7% protein) and 0.8% ash substances. Tubers are used for food only after boiling or roasting. In their raw form, they strongly irritate the mucous membrane and are practically not edible. In addition, the tubers and rhizomes contain calcium oxalate crystals, which are destroyed during heat treatment. The tubers contain a number of important vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin), minerals, lipids, unsaturated fatty acids and anthocyanins. The starch contained in taro is quite specific - fine-grained, of high quality and very well absorbed. Taro has excellent nutritional value and is comparable to potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and rice. Moreover, it is easily digested and hypoallergenic. Most often, tubers are eaten boiled, seasoned with salt and black pepper. They taste like potatoes, only more bland, easily disintegrating into soft fibers.
Dried taro tubers make flour, and raw they are suitable for producing alcohol.
How taro is grown
The culture in different countries is similar. Typically, taro is cultivated in Asia in crop rotations with rice, legumes, banana. It is not recommended to grow this culture in one place for a long time due to damage by nematodes. However, the duration of cultivation varies greatly - from 3 to 15 months, depending on the variety and species. In Sri Lanka, ultra-early ripening varieties are used, harvesting after 4 months, in Hawaii, the period before harvest is 9-14 months without flooding and 12-15 months with flooding. In this, its cultivation is somewhat similar to rice.
Usually, the harvesting of planting material is combined with the digging of the crop. The so-called tubers are used as planting material for taro, selecting medium-sized ones - weighing about 60 g. After shoots appear on the field, the site is flooded by 2 cm and such a layer of water is maintained for the first three months of the growing season. When the thickening of underground organs begins, the water level rises to 4 cm. And the last two months before harvesting, the plants remain without water.When flooded, a lot of tubers are formed near taro (up to 22) and, accordingly, the yield is greatly increased. But the average growing period is from 6 to 8 months.
The moment of harvest is determined by wilting and yellowing of the leaves. Before harvesting, 1-2 green leaves usually remain on the plant. The yield is relatively low, it cannot be compared with potatoes, and reaches from 8 tons in Ghana to 12-15 tons in Japan.
The varieties can be divided into 2 groups - for irrigated and rainfed (that is, without irrigation) crops. Irrigated varieties are distinguished by very large and fleshy leaves, very high fertilizer responsiveness and higher productivity. They are not watered in wet seasons, but irrigation is mandatory in dry seasons.
Taro grass has been used since ancient times for diseases such as asthma, arthritis, diarrhea, internal bleeding, neurological disorders, as well as skin diseases. The juice of its tubers is widely used to treat body aches and baldness. A wide range of chemical compounds, including flavonoids, beta-sitosterol and steroids, have been isolated from the tubers and aerial parts of this species. Modern research pays special attention to analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and lipid-lowering effects.
Indian scientists point out that taro is a source of immunostimulating proteins, new ingredients as an additive for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Taro proteins stimulated the production of globulins responsible for immunity. Products from the tubers of this plant are proposed as prebiotics for a healthy diet for a variety of diseases, especially allergies.
Most often, taro tubers are consumed boiled and lightly seasoned with black pepper. They taste like potatoes, starchy, but more bland. Easily disintegrates into soft fibers.
And taro is also used as an ornamental plant for decorating reservoirs throughout the tropical zone of the globe, and the aboveground part, containing up to 20% protein on dry matter, is a good feed for livestock.