is a tropical plant grown primarily for its edible corm
, a root vegetable
known as Taro
. It is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated plants.
The specific epithet means "edible" in Latin.
Taro is closely related to Xanthosoma and Caladium, plants commonly grown as ornamentals, and like them it is sometimes loosely called elephant ear.
Distribution and habitat
Taro was probably first native to the lowland wetlands
(taloes). Estimates are that taro was in cultivation in wet tropical India
before 5000 B.C., presumably coming from Malaysia, and from India further transported westward to ancient Egypt
, where it was described by Greek
historians as an important crop.
An Australia, Colocasia esculenta var. aquatilis is native to the Kimberley region of Western Australia; variety esculenta is naturalised in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales.
Its primary use, however, is the consumption of its edible corm and leaves. In its raw form the plant is toxic due to the presence of calcium oxalate, although the toxin is destroyed by cooking and the presence of needle-shaped raphides in the plant cells. However it can be rendered palatable by cooking, or by steeping in cold water overnight.
Corms of the small round variety are peeled and boiled, sold either frozen, bagged in its own liquids, or canned. The leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals.
It is also sold an ornamental aquatic plant.