Tropical Taro, the Tropical Spud
Taro, or the potato of the tropics, is a staple food crop throughout the Pacific. Here, at Ontong Java in the Solomons it is culitvated in the traditional way, by villagers still living a traditional lifestyle. It is grown all year round, and every part of the plant provides food.
As the corm is lifted from the ground, any extra 'waste' is dug back into the soil to provide fertiliser for the new corms. New corms are formed by vegetative propagation from portions of the parent plant.
The wild plants have lost their ability to flower and set seed, so this is the only way to produce taro crops. This fact suggests that taro has been in cultivation for a very long period, and some claim it to have been grown since 5000BC in tropical wet India.
In Ontong Java, taro is harvested regularly from indiviual plants that are ready, they are then wrapped in large banana leaves and brought back to the village.
The starch-rich taro is cooked for a long time to remove sharp crystals of calcium oxalate which can become lodged in the throat if not destroyed in cooking.
The triangular shaped leaves are also edible, but must also be cooked for a long time.
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