A lot of fun things have been said about taro, including its ability to help people lose excess body weight. Although these anecdotes have contributed immensely to the current obsession with taro cuisines, especially among young people, there has been a lot of confusion around the taste of taro. So, what does taro taste like? This article offers you a comprehensive taro flavor profile.
What Is Taro?
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Taro is one of the oldest crops in the world and an essential ingredient in many foods. It’s a cultivated starchy root vegetable that resembles arrowroot. Also referred to as eddo or dasheen, taro is a tropical plant that’s commonly found in Southeast Asia.
The plant produces a starchy root with brown skin and whitish flesh with purple specks, just like the arrowroot. However, a taro root is a corm or an underground stem. The stem and its leaves shouldn’t be eaten raw because they’re very toxic and contain large amounts of calcium oxalate. But they’re completely safe to eat when properly cooked.
The name taro is an English name borrowed from the Maori language. It became an English name in 1769 when Captain Cook saw the Colocasia plantations for the first time. The name is now widespread, especially among Polynesian languages.
Tahitians refer to it as taro while Samoans call it talo. In Hawaiian, it’s called kalo, while Marquesans refer to it as ta’o. All these versions were coined from Proto-Polynesian “talo”, which originated from Proto-Oceanic “talos” and Proto-Austronesian “tales”.
But the variance in sound likeness among the cognate versions in Austronesian indicates that the term could have been acquired from an Austroasiatic language possibly in Borneo. In Odia, this plant is referred to as saru. In India, the term saru is commonly used in the Odisha region.
The taro plant has stems of various shapes and sizes and its leaves are approximately 40 cm x 24.8 cm. The leaves grow from the stem and their upper side is dark-green while the lower side is light-green. Taro leaves are triangular-ovate, sub-rounded, and mucronate at the tip.
Initially, taro was only found in tropical and subtropical areas like South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Papua New Guinea. But today it’s quite common in places like northern Australia, Maldives, and some parts of Africa. Researchers suggest that this plat may have a wider native distribution than previously thought, and wild varieties may also be indigenous to other regions in Island Southeast Asia.
Is Taro Healthy?
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Since taro is a staple ingredient for many cuisines, a serious debate about its health benefits has emerged, with some people wondering if it’s healthy. Knowing the nutritional value of taro is important because you’ll have a reason to enjoy it more frequently. Some researchers claim that taro, which has a mild, starchy texture, offers more nutritional benefits than other root vegetables like arrow roots and potatoes.
As noted above, taro root is highly toxic when uncooked but completely safe and healthy when cooked. It has several essential nutrients that offer amazing health benefits, including improved metabolism, blood clotting, and healthy bones. The starchy vegetable contains different types of vitamins that promote good vision, healthy skin, improved blood circulation, and enhanced immunity. Here are other health benefits of taro.
1. Improved Digestion
The largest part of taro root is dietary fiber. It contains two times more fiber than potatoes. This fiber helps to improve digestion and deals effectively with digestive issues like constipation, acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and diarrhea.
Fiber doesn’t get broken down quickly by stomach acids, so it moves slowly down your digestive system thus keeping you feeling full between meals so that you don’t have to eat a lot. This will help you to manage your body weight. As it moves through your digestive tract, fiber clears any dirt that could be stuck on the walls of your gut, causing constipation.
2. Managing Your Blood Sugar
Taro root contains a special type of carbohydrate known as resistant starch. This is one of the most popular good carbs that are used to stabilize blood sugars. Resistant starch also helps with weight loss and diabetes management. If you’re on a low-carb or keto diet, this type of starch is good for you.
3. Healthy Heart
Taro root has high levels of potassium that are good for breaking down excess salt to control your blood pressure. It also reduces pressure on your cardiovascular system, preventing chronic heart complications.
4. Reduced Risk of Cancer
Taro roots and leaves are full of antioxidants like quercetin, which is produced by the vegetable’s purple pigment. This is a great antioxidant that will protect your cells from free radicals – molecules that damage cells, causing your body to age quickly. These free radicals are also known to cause cancer.
What Does Taro Taste Like?
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Taro root is generally plain and tasteless. That’s why it’s considered to be the most versatile ingredient for many sweet and savory cuisines. Without any additives, taro’s taste is quite mild with a slight hint of sugariness and a somewhat nutty flavor. You can understand its taste better by comparing it to other root vegetables like potatoes. However, taro has a distinctive taste and texture.
Taro vs. Japanese Sweet Potatoes
Taro root’s texture and appearance are closest in resemblance to that of Japanese sweet potatoes. But the flesh of Japanese sweet potato is whiter and softer than that of taro root. Furthermore, taro root is drier than the Japanese sweet potato. Lastly, taro is not as sweet as the Japanese sweet potato.
Taro Root vs. Potatoes
Taro root’s taste is as mild as that of a potato. Like a potato, taro is a carrier of taste. This means that it can adopt other ingredients, whether they are savory or sugary.
Taro Root vs. Ube
Taro root doesn’t taste anything like ube, purple yams, or purple sweet potatoes. It is not as sweet, nor is its flesh as bright purple as that of ube.
Taro Root vs. Parsnip
Taro root doesn’t taste like parsnip. It doesn’t have the slightly spicy flavor of parsnips.
Taro Root vs. Arrowroots or Yucca
Like yucca, taro root has a slightly nutty flavor. It also absorbs other flavors it’s been seasoned with well like arrowroots.
What Does Taro Root Smell Like?
When freshly peeled and cut, taro root smells fresh and earthy. When it’s boiled, it has a mild smell that’s similar to its flavor.
How to Use Taro
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There are many ways to use taro, depending on the type of cuisine you’re preparing and the reason why you’re consuming it. As mentioned above, taro roots and leaves shouldn’t be consumed when raw because they’re highly toxic. You should steam, boil, fry, or roast them before consumption.
Taro root can be chopped into small slices, powdered, or mashed into a paste. Processed taro is used for baking flour and preparing stew, smoothies, soups, or tea. Taro powder and paste are among the main ingredients for boba tea. Here are other common ways to serve taro roots.
This is a popular side dish that’s normally served in Hawaiian restaurants and homes. Cooks usually steam taro roots and smash them into a paste, adding water until it’s smooth. It can be served with stew.
2. Taro Chips
Like potatoes, taro roots make some delicious chips. Just slice them thinly and bake them slices in the oven or an air fryer to make them crunchy like potato chips.
3. Taro Curry Dish
This is a curried, mush-forward dish that’s very common in southern India.
4. Taro Yogurt/Ice Cream
Taro frozen yogurt or ice cream is usually made with powdered purple taro root. The purple color makes it aesthetically unique for yogurts and ice cream desserts.
5. Taro Tea
Also referred to as taro boba tea, taro tea consists of three main components – ground taro roots, jasmine tea, and tapioca pearls.
6. Taro Pancakes
Some grocery stores are now selling taro pancake mixes. If you can’t find any of these stores, you can use the leftover poi for a homemade thrash.