1) Plant History & General Information:
Scientific Name: Colocasia esculenta; Kalo
Region of Origin: Taro was probably first native to the lowland wetlands of Malaysia (taloes). Estimates are that taro was in cultivation in wet tropical India before 5000 B.C., presumably coming from Malaysia, and from India further transported westward to ancient Egypt, where it was described by Greek and Roman historians as an important crop.
General History: The leaves are glossy green, up to 4 cm long, and new leaves are copper in color.
2) Plant Uses:
- As Food: The small round variety is peeled and boiled, sold either frozen, bagged in its own liquids, or canned. The plant is actually inedible when raw because of needle-shaped raphides in the plant cells. Typical of leaf vegetables, taro leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals.
- As Medicine: They are a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, and a very good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Taro corms are very high in starch, and are a good source of dietary fiber. Oxalic acid may be present in the corm and especially in the leaf. These foods should be eaten with milk or other foods rich in calcium so as to remove the risks posed by ingesting the oxalate ion, especially for people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis. Calcium reacts with the oxalate to form calcium oxalate which is very insoluble.
- Other Uses: Leaves and petioles of the taro plant is used to make dyes for kapa (bark cloth).
3) Growing Instructions
- Growing: Grows like a weed. The plant does not enjoy frost. It grows best at an average temperature of 24 °C (75 °F), abundant sunshine and warm nights.
- Best time to Harvest: The roots are best harvested when the leaves start to wilt and die.
- Sunlight Requirements: Full Shade, Partial Shade, Full Sunlight
- Soil Requirements: Upland taro can grow on a wide range of soil types. However you can obtain best results deep, well drained, friable loams with pH 5.5-6.5. You should avoid rocky or stony soils to prevent deformed corms and difficult harvesting.
- Propagation: Cutting, Division, Grafting, Seed, Separating
- This plant must be planted with full roots/root ball. Dig hole large enough to contain root/root ball,
- gently paper bag (mulch) around cuttings and place new soil on top and weigh down with rock or guava branches.
- Water thoroughly
- Controlling Spread: Taro is susceptible to weed competition, especially during the first 3- 4 months after planting when the leaf canopy is forming. During this time, control weeds by hand pulling or cultivating with a hoe or other implement. When the crop attains the maximum vegetative stage, the lush foliage will shade out weed growth. You should minimize the cultivation for weed control to avoid injuring the roots and the developing corms.
- Difficulties with this plant: Several insects attack upland taro in Hawaii. The most common and important are the leafhoppers (Tarophagus proserpina) and aphids (Aphis spp.). These insects usually do not cause serious damage unless they are present in large numbers. They damage the taro plants by sucking sap from the petioles and leaf blades. Leafhopper damage can be distinguished by the presence of numerous brown to black spots on the petioles. The stains from sap that has oozed from puncture holes on the petioles causes these spots.