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Purple, creamy and starchy, taro is one food trend you definitely don’t want to miss out on. From savory dishes to drinks, there are many ways to use this versatile vegetable.
You may know what taro looks like, but today we intend to answer ‘What does taro taste like?’. If you haven’t tasted this amazing Indian vegetable yet, we are sure that you will give it a try after reading this piece. So, here we go:
What is taro?
Taro (Colocasia esculenta) is a tropical herbaceous plant native to Southeast Asia. The taro plant, which has elephant-ear-shaped leaves, produces edible corms with brown skin and white flesh, a staple throughout the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean.
You must cook taro before eating it. Raw taro corm has a chemical compound called calcium oxalate that can cause severe itching and issues like kidney stones. When heated, though, the compound gets destroyed.
Taro corms have a sweet and nutty flavor similar to a sweet potato or yam when cooked. Smaller, purple-tinged taro corms are usually sweeter than their larger, paler relatives. taro is commonly used in puddings, breads, and poi (a Hawaiian dish).
Carbohydrates, dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, and vitamin C are all included in taro's nutritional profile.
What does taro taste like?
Belonging to the Araceae plant family, the taro plant corms are used as vegetables. Taro has a unique taste profile between potatoes and sweet potatoes. The distinguishing feature, however, is the milky undertaste this vegetable has.
The texture of the vegetable is starchy and tender. However, all these taste characteristics are only relevant to cooked taro because the raw form of taro is not edible.
The sweet taste of the taro root works well in desserts and creamy drinks. Whereas there are numerous ways to cook the vegetable in its savory form. That’s why the vegetable is one of the most versatile vegetables you can ever taste.
The best part about the taro flavor is its ability to blend with other ingredients. You can taste the nutty and starchy texture of taro in soups, while in taro milk tea, taro only tastes mildly sweet.
When baked, taro will adapt the seasonings on the outside but maintain its sweet undertaste from the inside.
So, we can aptly say that the taste of taro depends on the form you’re consuming the vegetable.
Where does taro come from?
Although there are no definitive accounts on the origin of the taro plant, it most likely originated in the Indian region. However, the tropical plant is not a staple in that region. Instead, it is used as a staple vegetable in the Pacific Islands.
Hawaii, in particular, has a deep love for the vegetable where it is used for medicinal purposes and is supposed to be a form of their Gods, Kane and Lono.
The vegetable has been used as a ritualistic element to appease these two gods. In fact, in Hawaii, taro is called Kalo, and people treat it as a ‘Kinolau’ of the two Gods mentioned above.
The kinolau, according to religious beliefs, is a vegetable, plant or any natural force that embodies a certain God.
Hawaiians use this vegetable in the form of Poi, which is a fermented paste of the vegetable.
Apart from Hawaii, the plant is now grown in New Zealand, Africa and Japan too. The Tao cultivar is one of the oldest plants.
According to Statista, China produces the highest amount of taro, followed by Papua New Guinea and the African region of Laos.
The Japanese region not only produces taro, but it also has many varieties of vegetable in its cuisine. Some Japanese cuisines that use taro include Chikozenni, a side dish featuring taro and lotus root.
Another Japanese dish that uses taro is called Ozoni, which is a vegetable soup. Taro Mochi is another Japanese rice cake with taro as a filling ingredient.
Although the vegetable originated in India, it is cultivated and consumed in other Asian, African and Polenasian regions.
Taro is an excellent source of many vitamins, including vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate. The corms are loaded with dietary fiber, and a hundred-gram serving only has 0.2 grams of fats and 1.6 grams of proteins.
The dietary fiber in taro helps improve digestion, and you can incorporate it into a weight-loss diet due to the filling nature and low-fat profile of the vegetable. Apart from the fibre, the vegetable supplies an exceptional amount of Manganese that helps form the bones, blood-clotting factors and sex hormones.
People may argue that a single serving packs 28 grams of carbohydrates which is higher than other vegetables. But these carbs are the resistant carbs which do not get into the bloodstream directly in the form of glucose. Instead, these carbs act like soluble fiber that suppresses hunger.
So, if you’re on a diet, including taro in it will have many health benefits like prevention from constipation, having suppressed hunger and an overall better health.
How to use taro in cooking
Being a versatile vegetable, taro has numerous culinary uses. People across the world prepare taro using many cooking methods including:
Roasting taro gives it a crisp texture with the sugars of the vegetable getting caramelized.
Roasted taro tastes similar to roasted sweet potato, but sweet potato gets flaky on roasting. taro, on the other hand, becomes crisp and chewy.
Baking taro just like potato or turnips yields its mildly sweet, nutty flavor. You can cut taro into chips and bake it after brushing with some oil and seasoning it.
The results will amaze you with the rich sweetness and crisp texture of the baked vegetable.
Frying taro yields almost the same taste results as roasting it. The outside of the taro chips will be crisp, but the inside will be soft and starchy.
However, that's true for a stir fry. If you're choosing to deep fry the vegetable, expect it to taste similar to potato crisps.
Deep frying the vegetable with spices usually tones down its sweet flavor.
Fermented taro is also a way to consume the delicious vegetable. To start the fermentation process, taro is first boiled and then converted to a paste.
At this stage, taro paste tastes sweet. However, if it's kept in an airtight jar for some days, it gets fermented and tastes tangy and sour.
Taro can be easily added to sweet drinks such as taro Boba tea (tapioca pearls tea, also called bubble tea). You can also make different taro smoothies.
When the drink is flavored with taro milk powder, it is called taro milk tea. The taro adds sweetness and beautiful purple color.
Although making an ice cream from a vegetable may feel bizarre to some, taro ice cream is a common treat.
Like any other flavored ice cream recipe, taro ice cream gets its flavor from taro. The ingredients usually include taro powder, milk and condensed milk to get a delicious purple-tinged ice cream with a smooth texture.
How to store taro
When it comes to storage, taro is a sensitive vegetable. You cannot keep it for longer than a week without spoiling some of its parts.
Refrigerating it will increase its life a bit, but refrigerated taro can get hard to cook.
Keeping the vegetable at room temperature will keep it safe for almost a week. Before keeping it in a cool, dark place, wrap it in a paper bag to prevent moisture reaching the vegetable.
Another way to store the vegetable is to freeze it. Freezing directly can cause the vegetable to lose its flavor, so before freezing you should peel, cut, boil and dry the vegetable and then zip-lock it in containers or bags.
One of the best ways to store taro is a root cellar. If you have one, keep taro in it.
Taro tastes sweet, nutty and mild. Although never eaten raw due to the presence of calcium oxalate, taro blends exceptionally well with any ingredient.
The cooking methods to get full of this sweet, nutty vegetable include roasting, baking, frying, fermenting etc.
Taros taste is highly adaptable, so this nutritionally-packed vegetable is popular to make savory and sweet dishes alike.
You can either enjoy the mild, milky flavor in a bubble tea or a taro roast. The choice is yours.