Xanthosoma (cocoyam )
Xanthosoma is a genus of flowering plants in the arum family, Araceae. The genus is native to tropical America but widely cultivated and naturalized in other tropical regions. Several are grown for their starchy corms, an important food staple of tropical regions, known variously as malanga, otoy, otoe, cocoyam (or new cocoyam), tannia, tannier, yautía, macabo, ocumo, macal, taioba, dasheen, quequisque, ʻape and (in Papua New Guinea) as Singapore taro (taro kongkong). Many other species (including especially X. roseum) are used as ornamental plants, and in popular horticultural literature are known as ‘ape or elephant ear (from the purported resemblance of the leaf to an elephant’s ear), although the latter name is sometimes also applied to members with similar appearance and uses in the closely related genera Caladium, Colocasia (i.e., taro), and Alocasia.
Originally from central and south America, tannia is often one of the first crops planted in slash and burn systems in the Pacific, either in pure stand blocks or inter-planted with other crops that need fertile soils.
The typical Xanthosoma plant has a growing cycle of 9 to 11 months, during which time it produces a large stem called a corm, this surrounded by smaller edible cormels about the size of potatoes. These cormels (like the corm) are rich in starch. Their taste has been described as earthy and nutty, and they are a common ingredient in soups and stews. They may also be eaten grilled, fried, or puréed. The young, unfurled leaves of some varieties can be eaten as boiled leafy vegetables or used in soups and stews, such as the Caribbean callaloo.
Domestication of Xanthosoma species (especially X. sagittifolium but also X. atrovirens, X. violaceum, X. maffaffa, and others) is thought to have originated in northern lowland South America, then spread to the Antilles and Mesoamerica. Today, Xanthosoma is still grown in all those regions, but is especially popular in Cuba and Puerto Rico, where it is used in alcapurrias or boiled. It is grown in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Jamaica to make the popular callaloo dish. It is also grown in West Africa, now a major producer, where it can be used as a replacement for yams in a popular regional dish called fufu. Xanthosoma is also grown as a crop in the Philippines.
Traditionally, Xanthosoma has been a subsistence crop with excess sold at local markets, but in the United States, large numbers of Latin American immigrants have created a market for commercial production. In general, production has yet to meet demand in some areas. In Polynesia, Xanthosoma (‘ape) was considered a famine food, used only in the event of failure of the much preferred taro (kalo) crop.
Health & nutrition values:
Flour made from Xanthosoma species is hypoallergenic
The tubers are a rich source of carbohydrates, calcium, iron and phosphorus.
Pacific Genetic Resource Database http://www.spc.int/lrd/cepactacc/xanthosoma.php