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Frances and Jeff Michaels
BOTANICAL NAME: Colocasia esculenta
COMMON NAMES: Taro, cultivars 'Bun Long' syn. Purple Spot Taro; and 'Chinese'; Dasheen
FAMILY: Araceae

Taro is grown as a root crop throughout the humid tropics and is one of the most important food staples in the Pacific. It needs a long, frost-free growing season and plenty of water. Taro has large, light green, heart-shaped leaves, fleshy stems and grows up to 1.5 m in height. Taro is suitable for both wetland and dryland culture. It will grow well in partial shade, making it an excellent understorey plant. Flowers are infrequent and it rarely sets seed.
The cultivar 'Bun-long' is an excellent eating taro with a creamy white, dense, starchy flesh with purple flecks, it grows well in tropical zones. The leaves are green with a purplish centre spot, the stems become reddish as they mature.
The 'Chinese' cultivar suits areas from northern NSW to south-east Qld.

Recommended planting time: Any time of year in frost-free areas, in spring in cold areas. Best growth occurs at 25-35C.
Planting depth: Plant the tuber a few centimetres below the soil surface.
Plant spacing: 60-90 cm apart with 1.8 m between rows.
Soil type: Well-drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter; pH 5.5 - 7.
Growing details: Taro is propagated in two ways:
1. by offshoots from the mother corm. Offshoots are separated from the main plant when they are at least 15 cm in height.
2. by chopping the dark top section of the taro tuber into small pieces, leave for a day to allow surfaces to dry and replant.

Taro needs consistent irrigation and a well-drained rich soil with plenty of organic matter. Fertilise two or three times during the growing season; potash is particularly important.

The crop matures in 9-12 months, when the leaves begin to yellow and die down and there is a slight lifting of the tubers. Lift the tubers as you would sweet potatoes. Taro does not store for longer than a month, so leave tubers in the soil until needed.

Taro tubers are peeled and then baked, steamed, boiled or mashed. In Hawaii, it is sliced and fried into taro chips. Taro starch grains are extremely small and easily digested. Due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals which can irritate the mouth, it cannot be eaten raw. In Polynesia, poi is made from fermented ground taro; it is grey to mauve in colour, sour but nourishing and said to be good for the digestion. Young leaves can also be eaten well-cooked.


Taro Cakes
1 medium sized taro (about 500g)
1 tbsp milk (or coconut milk)
20g butter
1 egg yolk
salt, pepper
vegetable oil

Peel the taro, boil and mash it; mix in the milk, egg yolk, salt and pepper, and shape into flat cakes. Roll these in flour and fry in oil. Makes 12 small cakes.

Baked Taro
2 medium sized taro (about 1kg)
10g butter
milk of one coconut
salt and pepper
2 birdseye chillies
50g grated cheese

Peel the taro and cut into thin rounds. Grease a wide casserole dish with the butter and place the sliced taro in it. Add the salt, pepper, chopped chillies and pour the coconut milk over the top. Cover the dish and bake at 175 C for about 1 hours. Take out, remove lid, sprinkle with cheese and bake until the cheese is golden brown.

Tahitian Spinach is a type of Taro used for its leaves and stems.

SORRY but due to quarantine restrictions between Australian States no plants at all can be ordered by residents of Norfolk Island, Tasmania and Western Australia. These restrictions are very important as they prevent the spread of plant pests and diseases. No potatoes, garlic, shallots, strawberries or tubestock can be sent to South Australia. No tubestock can be sent to Northern Territory.
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