Like yams, taro is another hugely important
tuber in tropical areas, and for thousands of years it has been a staple
food for many people. It goes under many different names; in South East
Asia, South and Central America, all over Africa and in the Caribbean it
is called variously eddo and dasheen.
There are two basic varieties of taro - a
large barrel-shaped tuber and a smaller variety, which is often called
eddo or dasheen. They are all a dark mahogany brown with a rather shaggy
skin, looking like a cross between a beetroot and a swede. Although they
look very similar, taro belongs to a completely different family from
yam and in flavor and texture is noticeably different. Boiled, it has a
completely unique flavor, something like a floury water chestnut.
Buying and Storing : Try to buy small
specimens; the really small smooth bulbs are tiny attachments to the
larger taro and are either called eddoes, or rather sweetly, "sons of
taro". Stored in a cool, dark place, they should keep for several weeks.
Preparing : Taros, like yams, contain
a poison just under the skin which produces an allergic reaction.
Consequently, either peel taros thickly, wearing rubber gloves, or cook
in their skins. The toxins are completely eliminated by boiling, and the
skins peel off easily.
Cooking : Taros soak up large
quantities of liquid during cooking, and this can be turned to advantage
by cooking in well flavored stock or with tomatoes and other vegetables.
For this reason, they are excellent in soups and casseroles, adding bulk
and flavor in a similar way to potatoes. They can also be steamed or
boiled, deep-fried or pureed for fritters but must be served hot as they
become sticky if allowed to cool.