Bun Long Taro
Bun Long Taro
days to maturity: 200
plant spacing: 1 plant every 2 feet
sunlight requirements: 6-14 hours, filtered sun
look out for: rot and nematodes
harvest notes: aggressive grower
Taro, also know as kalo, "potato of the tropics," or "elephant ears,” is an ancient aroid food crop grown throughout the tropics and subtropics. Believed to have originated in South East Asia, this wetland herbaceous perennial produces big heart shaped leaves and a stretchy corm. Although grown commercially in many areas of the Pacific Basin, it is mostly a backyard crop, usually planted in small plots near homes.
The most important food throughout the Hawaiian Islands, the mature root is boiled as a starchy vegetable and to make poi, which is relatively high in protein compared to other starchy root crops. Super rich in fiber, Taro helps with digestive regularity especially if one is experiencing constipation. Because of the high fiber content and resistant starch content, taro prevents large blood sugar spikes after a meal and thus makes a great carb addition to anyone with diabetes. When cooked, the roots have a mildly sweet flavor and texture similar to white potatoes. This veggie became quite popular in America with the invention of Terra “Taro Chips”, which showcase the white tubers squiggly purple interior lines.
The leaves are high in minerals and vitamins A, B, and C and are often prepared like stewed mustard or turnip greens, called callaloo. Younger leaves are more prized as food since they are more tender and less fibrous, and all leaf preparation need to include cooking, since oxalic acid is present in the leaves. An amazing Indian restaurant in Miami called Ghee has a popular appetizer called “Alu Vadi” that is made with rolled taro leaves and spiced chickpea flower paste. The taro leaves are covered in the paste, then rolled into a log, sliced and deep fried.
Taro can grow in a wide range of soils in high rainfall areas and can tolerate saturated soil for prolonged periods. Here in South Florida Taro is considered an invasive plant because it has already gone wild in our swampy environment, where it grows along rivers, streams and canals and outcompetes slower growing native plants. Since IFAS has classified Taro as an invasive we recommend planting this crop outside of Florida only.