May 26, 2012

Veggie Fact of the Day

Taro is a plant native to southeast Asia. It is grown for its edible shoots (corms; short, vertical, swollen underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ) and large green leaves (commonly known as 'Elephant Ears'). 

Neither the corms, nor the leaves are edible when raw due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals (raphides), which are highly insoluble and have been shown to contribute to kidney stones. Eating these can cause intense sensations of burning in the mouth and throat, swelling, and even choking. However, the corm and the leaves are completely safe once cooked properly and are eaten across the world without adverse effects. 

Taro is also known as Colocasia, Arvee or Arbi, it is thought to have originated in Eastern India and Bangladesh. Once steamed, baked, roasted or boiled, the corms take on a light pink or purple color due to phenolic pigments and a sweet nutty flavor. Nutritionally, the corms are very rich in complex carbohydrates, low in protein and fats and lack gluten. Taro is superbly easy to digest and is often used as a baby food. In Hawaii and other polynesian islands, Taro is commonly consumed as a staple in the form of Poi - which is produced by mashing the cooked corm (baked or steamed) until it is a highly viscous fluid. Taro is one of finest sources of dietary fibers. The leaves are rich in flavonoids such carotenes, and cryptoxanthin and Vitamin A. Both the corm and leaves are moderately rich in Vitamins B-Complex group - Pyridoxine (B6), Folic acid (B9), riboflavin (B2), Pantothenic acid (B5), and thiamin (B1) and minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese and potassium.

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