Taro, belonging to the family of Araceae, is the common name under which we find them in the local market. The taro tuber has managed to replace potato chips with a healthy alternative. Within the Araceae family, people find a wide variety of nutritious, edible taro roots in the market. They often get called ‘elephant ears’ due to the visual presentation of their leaves or often called ‘dasheen’ in various parts of the world. The mentioned tuber belongs to the tropical or sub-tropical region and gets cultivated for its sweet and healthy tuber. There are more than 200 variants, of which only a few are Edible taro varieties.
Overview of Taro
At least 3 feet tall, but some may get as big as 6 feet.
Rocky or stony soils with a well-drained system.
Full or partial sun for the entire growth period.
Hardiness (USDA Zone)
15-24 inches apart from row to row and 40 inches apart from one plant to another.
It takes about 7-12 months for them to be ready for harvest.
Dark green tuber color with light green leaves.
It takes about 7-12 months to grow.
It originated from the Bay of Bengal region of the South-eastern regions.
The need to properly water the taro plant is quite essential for its healthy growth. Using natural fertilizers like compost and tea compost would suffice. The plant prefers a fertilizer rich in potassium.
History of Taro Plant:
Growing taro root often gets considered one of the most ancient cultivated crops. They get widely found in tropical and subtropical regions, with the likes of South Asia, East Asia, Papua New Guinea being some of the leading producers of this crop. The polymorphic nature of taro vegetables makes it very hard to distinguish between wild and cultivated one. The origin of the taro plant root often raised many contradicting outcomes, with some believing they originated in the northeastern regions of India, Papua New Guinea, mainland Southeast Asia. In contrast, several archeologists traced the taro vegetable plantation in Niah Caves of Borneo, Ile Cave of Palawan. However, Archeologist couldn’t ascertain whether they were domesticated growth or wild ones.
One will be surprised to know that edible taro root or dasheen’s calorie content is much higher than potatoes’. The source of the calories in taro comes from complex carbohydrates, amylose, and amyl pectin. The trace amount of fat in them makes them very popular among people on weightless diets. The less protein content in the tuber, however, is the only downside of this sweet delicacy.
The tuber is free from gluten protein and is rich in high-quality phytonutrients like dietary fiber, antioxidants, and a moderate amount of minerals and vitamins. The tuber, along with its acceptable source of fibers and slow-digesting complex carbs, helps gradually raise the sugar level in the blood. A significant amount of phenolic flavonoid pigments like beta-carotene and cryptoxanthin helps in maintain quality skin and vision.
Nutrients and Minerals for Taro Plant:
The development and growth of a taro plant root significantly depend on the macro and micronutrient essential. The soil’s adequate availability of nutrients, mass flow rate, and uptake through the rhizospheres will determine how healthy the cultivation will yield fruit. The plant’s uptake of the mineral largely depends on the surface area of the root and the elongation of the roots.
Potassium is one of the essential minerals required for a healthy yield as it helps in the homeostatic balancing of body fluids. Potassium single-handedly transfers phosphate from ATP to pyruvic acid and plays a role in various other enzymatic reactions.
Phosphorous plays an essential role in plant metabolism, carbohydrate biosynthesis, and transfer of energy. It helps in the synthesis of ATP, phospholipids, and phosphoproteins.
When to plant the Taro plant:
As taro is a tropical or subtropical plant, it requires warm temperatures ranging from -77 to 95 degrees F. The need for proper moisture management is another crucial aspect of taro cultivation. Regions where summer lasts longer for about 200 frost-free warm days, are ideal for its cultivation.
The plant can be grown in a dry or moist setting with a soil-rich, wet, and well-drained soil structure. In the Asian subcontinent, they often get grown in paddy fields due to their need for high moisture-retentive soil. However, they can be grown in a dry setting in furrows about 6 inches deep and soil covering about 2-3 inches.
The taro leaves often get consumed in various parts of the world. They can get grown in greenhouses at a temperature of about 60 degrees F. Ideally; spring is the best time to begin taro cultivation when the soil is warmer than usual. As they grow as high as 36 inches and spread about 20 inches, large garden areas are best suited for this type of cultivation.
Where to plant taro:
Though a fully grown taro plant can reach good heights, it can be grown in various places, ranging from large garden areas to pots and containers.
Growing taro in pots is very much possible, but the plant should meet its water demand adequately. It is best to place it outdoors where the chance of getting rainwater is higher, and as they grow more prominent, the place gets pretty messy, so it is best to avoid developing them indoors. A five-gallon bucket can do the job properly if supplied with rich soil and the occasional addition of fertilizers. While cultivating taro in pots, one must understand that some taros are meant for decorative purposes while some meant for tuber consumption.
How to grow taro:
One of the most important things for growing taro is the patience to let it grow, as it takes about seven months to show any signs of growth. The plant easily gets propagated through a tuber, which is widely available in various nurseries. Depending on the variety of the taro plant, the tuber can be smooth and round or rough and fibered.
Regardless of their species, place them in rich soil with a sound drainage system and a pH of about 5.5-6.5. While growing in dry conditions, put them in furrows dug about 6 inches and provide a 2-3 inches soil cover. While placing them in soil, keep in mind space between two plants should at least be 15-24 inches, and one can grow a second crop along with taro about 12 weeks before the first harvest.
Harvesting Taro plants:
Taro root planting involves some simple steps, which begin once the tuber gets placed in the soil, a small green will start protruding from the soil surface after about a week. Soon, the plant will turn into a thick, plushy bush that gradually reaches a height of about 6 feet. A cultivator may extract tubers from the growing plant, continuously sending out shoots, tubers, and leaves.
The process of extracting tuber during its growth phase won’t harm the plant. The entire procedure lasts for 200 days, from planting the first tuber to harvesting.
The process of extracting fruit from the tree is not that simple. The process is delicate and needs to get done carefully to prevent any damage to the plant. Using a garden fork, lift the tuber from the garden just before the first frost.
The plant leaves can get plucked as soon as the first few leaves have opened; unless the cultivator picks all the leaves out at once, it will continue to replace the picked ones with new ones.
Variety of taro plants:
- Swamp Taro: This particular is one of the most commonly found in the water bodies like the drain side, pond, lake, or puddle. If uprooted and kept aside for a few hours, these taros dry and wither, so proper care must get provided to ensure they do not get dried up if collected along with their foliage.
- Giant Taro: They are pretty similar to the swamp taro, and when taken out with foliage, they tend to dry and wither like the previous variety. The huge floppy leaves they possess are susceptible and may break if proper care doesn’t get provided. Once appropriately grown, these large lush green leaves look gracefully magnificent. They are toxic and found in the wild of the volcanic islands.
- Eddoe taro: The most commonly consumable taros, often referred to as the true taro. People often refer to this variant as one of the first cultivated crops in the history of humanity.
Manure and Pesticides for taro plantations:
Organic fertilizers and composts are the best bet and plenty of water to prevent it from getting dried up when it comes to taro. The plant prefers a high potassium fertilizer for its growth. The weed growth on the planting beds needs to get monitored thoroughly; physical removal is advisable.
- Aphids and Red spider mites are some of the biggest enemies of the taro that are grown indoors.
- Taro leaf blight visible on the leaves looks like water-soaked spots on the upper surface. Downy mildew often attacks taro.
- Thrips, Hawk’s mouths are some of the biggest enemies of taro cultivation, and systematic pest management is the solution in controlling them. Destruction of debris after one harvesting proved to help manage these pests efficiently.
- Armyworm, another pest commonly gets found in the taro cultivation in Asian countries. They lay eggs in masses, and creamy to golden brown coloration affirms the attack of these pests.
Storage of taro:
As they are root vegetables, they cannot get stored for a longer time like sweet potatoes. However, their life can get extended for a week or two by storing them in dry, cool, and dark places.
The consumable leaves are perishable as well, but using newspaper to wrap may improve their life significantly. Once covered, place them in the fridge inside a sealed container for not more than 2-3 days at max. A word of advice, try to consume the taros of bigger sizes as they tend to perish quicker than their smaller counterparts.
- Masala Arbi (Sautéed taro Root) Stir Fry Arbi
- Taro Root Dumplings
Like every tuber plant, they grow from their slips; one needs to buy consumable taro slips from the nursery and place them in prepared soil to cultivate taro for its roots.
Taro loves warm weather conditions and requires frost-free soil for about 200 days to grow and yield fruit. It is the best time to cultivate taro, just after spring ends, and harvest them just before the first frost.
Taro takes a lot of time to grow; though it varies from one variant to another, approximately 200 days to bear fruit.
Yes, one can grow. But keep in mind that it takes a lot of time to grow, and proper care needs to get provided.
Taro, arguably one of the best sources of carbohydrates, and thanks to their low GI, a patient who has diabetes can consume them as well. However, one must be careful while picking taro as some of the variants are poisonous.
Growing taro involves a series of simple steps; ample sunlight, water, and organic fertilizers should do the job efficiently. They are flexible enough to be developed in garden areas as well as pots or containers.
Whatever preparation one decides to pick, he should always thoroughly clean the roots under running water and then boil them in salt for about 15 minutes.
Eddo leaves, one of the widely consumed taro leaves, should get boiled for a reasonable amount of time before cooking to remove the acrid flavor.
The process of harvesting taro root seeds involves a series of simple steps that follows after 200 days from the day of the plantation. Once grown using a garden fork, start removing the tubers without damaging the entire plant.
One batch of taro cultivation takes about 200 days to yield a crop, but one can place the second batch of crops 12 weeks before harvest of the first batch to get year-round supply.
There are wide ranges of recipes one can pick from while preparing taro. However, before cooking, make sure to clean them properly and boil them in salt water to remove the acrid flavor from them.
More than 200 varieties of taro seed get cultivated for their consumable corms or cormels and often for ornamental purposes.