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Taro leaves are heart-shaped, bright to deep green and they grow to a width that spans between 20 and 150 centimeters. The underside of the leaves have veins that branch out from the central stem. Both the veins and stem will have a purple to red hue and are often variegated. Although Taro is cultivated primarily for its roots, the leaves are edible once cooked and have a tender and succulent texture. It should be noted that Taro is toxic when eaten raw, and gloves should be worn when preparing the leaves to avoid skin irritation. Some cultures in the southeast Asian region will tell you to boil the leaves and stems down, then drain them before cooking them further. Their flavor is subtle, offering a pleasant nuttiness with an iron finish that is comparable to the flavor of spinach.
Taro leaves are available year-round.
The leaves of the Taro plant roll out from stems erecting from the earth, reaching over two meters in height depending upon variety. Botanically classified as Colocasia esculenta, there are are at least 87 varieties and subspecies recognized today. Taro leaves are also known as Luau and Elephant's Ear. Malaysian and Indonesian people know them as Keladi, while in India, they are called Alu or Dasheen. The Taro plant is unique in that it rarely flowers.
Taro leaves are a rich source of protein, ascorbic acid, dietary fiber, and other important minerals including, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Some studies have suggested that they also have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Use Taro leaves in the authentic Hawaiian dish known as laulau, which consists of wrapping chicken, pork or salted butterfish in the leaves and then steaming in a makeshift underground oven. Spread the Taro leaves with a spiced chickpea paste, then roll, steam, slice and deep fry. The leaves are commonly rolled up tightly and tied into knots, then simmered in coconut, red chili, tamarind, coriander and garlic. Taro leaves make an excellent accompaniment to curries and dishes containing coconut milk. The Filipinos use both dried and fresh Taro leaves in a dish called laing, which is a stew that can include shrimp or crab and often paired with steamed rice. Indonesians use Taro in a stuffed leaf recipe, called buntil daun talas. In some Indian states, the Taro leaf is used to make snacks, or can be used in curries. The leaves can be chopped and mixed into batters for versions of vadais (an Indian donut or fritter) or idlis (an Indian rice cake).
Taro leaves are used widely throughout Pacific Island cuisines. The most ubiquitous association is with Hawaii where the islands' famous luaus are named after the Taro leaf. The celebrations steeped in history began with the first Polynesian settlers who brought Taro plants with them by canoe. The Taro enjoys high cultural significance in Polynesia as well, where it is also used in ritual presentations and feasting, and is considered fit for royalty. Taro leaves and stems are used in cooking in southeast Asian cuisines in rural areas, and must be cooked down thoroughly on a low heat, sometimes for hours. Although the Taro leaf is not used as widely as the root in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, the leaf is used in some traditional dishes such as the Filipino coconut soup Laing, popular in the Bicol region before it spread to the rest of the country.
Taro is a vigorous growing perennial plant that thrives in the tropics and subtropics. It is native to southeast Asia and is presumed to have come from Malaysia. Some estimate that the Indians were cultivating Taro before 5000 B.C. It spread to ancient Egypt, and later became an important crop in Greece and Rome. Reports of Taro in New Guinea date back some 10,000 years. The first evidence of Taro in China dates back to 304 A.D. When the Polynesians colonized Samoa, they took the Taro plant to Hawaii and New Zealand, and soon brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Taro is cultivated in swampy soils and flooded parcels along with rice and other semi-aquatic crops. It is also cultivated in dry upland conditions where it relies on rainfall and irrigation. Over 10% off the world's population uses Taro as a food staple. It is found wild in places like the Philippines, and remains a prominent crop in the Cook Islands, China and tropical Africa.
Restaurants currently purchasing this product as an ingredient for their menu.
|The Cork and Craft||San Diego CA||858-618-2463|
|Morgan Run Resort and Club||Rancho Sante Fe CA||858-756-2471|
|Petite Madeline Bakery||Oceanside CA||760-231-7300|
Recipes that include Taro Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.