Common name: Taro, Arbi, Chembu, Kalo, Godere
Taro plants have been cultivated in India for hundreds of years for food, but they are also grown as ornamental plants because of their beautiful broad, green, elephant-ear like leaves. Many species of Taro including Alocasia macrorrhiza and Xanthosoma sagittifolium are all broadly called Elephant ears for this very reason.
Taro plants can grow to a height of 4-5 feet, with leaves that vary in size from 20-150 cms, depending on the species. They are mostly grown for their edible tubers or corms, which is eaten after cooking.
The leaves contain needle-like raphides which can irritate the tongue if eaten raw. Boiling, cooking, fermenting or even soaking them can remove these harmful chemicals. The tubers are boiled, mashed, cooked, grilled, fried or stewed in different dishes, in different parts of the world.
Taros are rich in carbohydrates, making them a popular food choice in Asian countries, most countries having their own special dishes or methods of preparation. They are used in savory dishes like curries, soups and stews; and also in sweet dishes. Taro roots can be made into flour or porridge; which can be easily digested by infants and the elderly.
The tender leaves are sometimes eaten raw, but mostly cooked and eaten. The leaf petioles are also used for making dishes. Taro leaves can be mixed with gram flour and salt, and fried to make yummy snack. Leaves are also used for steaming fishes and rice flour cakes.
Taro plants grow fast and can be harvested 8-12 months after planting them. Leaves and stems can be harvested all through the growing period, making them a favorite in kitchen gardens.
They can be also grown in flooded areas where there is clean, running water; but these plants take longer to mature; and the corms produced from these plants would be larger in size. When grown in gardens, Taro plants need regular watering and moist soil.
They are sun lovers and need good direct sunlight for most part of the day. Taro plants can be grown under trees as well, if they get filtered sunlight. Though rare, these plants can produce flowers with a long spadix; that attracts pollinating insects.
The tubers and leaves are rich in proteins, minerals and micronutrients like iron, magnesium, copper, zinc and potassium. This versatile plant also has many medicinal uses, in treatment of wounds, boils, cysts, conjunctivitis, stomach pain, hemorrhage, cough, cold, diarrhea, insects bites and body pain.
Propagation is through underground corms, and rarely through seeds.