Dasheen

History:

Dasheen is thought to be not native to Southern India and Southeast Asia, but is widely naturalised. It is a perennial, tropical plant primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, and as a leaf vegetable. It is a food staple in African, Oceanic and South Indian cultures and is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants. Dasheen is thought to have originated in the Indomalaya ecozone, perhaps in East India, Nepal and Bangladesh, and spread by cultivation eastward into Southeast Asia, East Asia and the Pacific Islands; westward to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean Basin; and then southward and westward from there into East Africa and West Africa, whence to the Caribbean and Americas.

 

Characteristics:

Also known as coco, taro and tannia, dasheen is a starchy tuber. It is considered by some to have a texture and flavor superior to that of a Jerusalem artichoke or potato. Potatoes can often be used as a substitute for dasheen in recipes. Dasheen is often called coco, but coco is actually a slightly smaller relative of dasheen. It is known by many local names and often referred to as “elephant ears” when grown as an ornamental plant.

 

Food uses:

Dasheen is usually served boiled or cut up and used as a thickener in hearty soups. The corms, which have a light purple color due to phenolic pigments, are roasted, baked or boiled, and the natural sugars give a sweet nutty flavor. The starch is easily digestible, and since the grains are fine and small it is often used for baby food. Young taro leaves and stems can be eaten after boiling twice to remove the acrid flavor and the leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms. There are many taro plantations on the Cook Islands as the soil there is perfect for them. The root is eaten boiled, as is standard across Polynesia. Taro leaves are also eaten as a delicacy, cooked with coconut milk, onion and meat or fish. Taro (dalo in Fijian) has been a staple of the Fijian diet for centuries, and its cultural importance is celebrated on Taro Day. In the Spanish speaking countries of the Spanish West Indies dasheen is called ñame, the Portuguese variant of which (inhame) is used in former Portuguese colonies where taro is still cultivated, including the Azores and Brazil. In Puerto Rico and Cuba, it is sometimes called “malanga”. In some countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica, the leaves and stem of the dasheen, or taro, are most often cooked and pureed into a thick liquid called callaloo, which is served as a side dish similar to creamed spinach. Callaloo is sometimes prepared with crab legs, coconut milk, pumpkin and okra. It is usually served alongside rice or made into a soup along with various other roots.

 

Health & nutrition values:

Dasheen contains oxalic acid which forms raphides. It is reduced to safe levels by steeping cubed taro roots in cold water overnight and disposing of the water. Calcium oxalate is highly insoluble and contributes to kidney stones. It has been recommended to consume calcium-rich foods together with dasheen. Dasheen contains a very significant amount of dietary fiber and carbohydrates, as well as high levels of vitamin A, C, E, B6, and folate, as well as magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, and copper. The plant also provides some protein in your diet, but the amount is almost negligible.

 

Cultural Festival:

Tobago’s Blue Food Festival http://www.tobagoretreats.com/island_art02.htm

 

References/Bibliography:

Taro – Wikipedia Page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taro

Taro root nutrition facts http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/taro.html

Health Benefits of Taro Root https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/taro-root.html