RE: A Taro is as sweet by any other name

From: on behalf of maurice major
Sent: 	Monday, May 12, 1997 3:55 PM
To: 	Julius Boos
Subject: 	A Taro is as sweet by any other name

>Regarding the recent post by Julius on terminology for various edible
>aroids, I have a minor addition from Hawaii. The full scientific name I see
>in the literature out here for the thing called taro (or kalo) is Colocasia
>esculenta (L.) Schott. Then again, I mostly read older stuff and I am just
>an anthropoloogist, so tell me if the botanical world has revised this >name.

>There are over 300 names for taro varieties here, but it is thought that
>many are local terms for single cuiltivars. It is also generally accepted
>that there were easily over 100 varieties in the past, and Hawaii was >more
>into taro than most Polynesian cultures. All of the varieties are >presumed
>to fall under the sceintific name I gave above. Hawaiians also cultivated a
>plant called ape (ah-pay), which is Alocasia macorrhiza. Historically,
>Xanthosoma has been introduced, and is also called ape. Today, apes >are
>generally grown by Tongan and Samoan people who live in Hawaii, and >not
>Hawaiians themselves--taro is still number one.

>The rule for Hawaiian taro is that any wetland taro can also be grown in
>dryland conditions, but not the other way around. (By dryland, I mean >only
>that it is not in a pond--plenty of water is still required.) Some dryland
>taro will rot when grown in a pond field. In recent history, dryland taro
>has gotten something of a bad rap, but the fact is that dryland cultivation
>can yield lareg, tasty corms. Tha advantage to wetland culture is that >you
>get nearly 8 times the yield per acre. The disadvantage is that you need
>more investment in labor and infrastructure to begin, as well as a reliable
>source of cool, clean water. (In a major court case, taro farmers are now
>trying to get water returned to their valleys. It was diverted about 100
>years ago for sugar plantations on the dry side of O`ahu, but the
>plantations have shut down now. Developers want to keep the water >flowing to
>the dry side.)

>A final note, if you read about taro here, the term dasheen (or araimo)
>refers to varieties that produce small corms (smaller than fist sized) and
>send out runners. I believe that most dasheen taro today derives from >types
>introduced to Hawaii from Asia. 

>I am not a taxonomist or botanist, and lay no claim to knowing the >proper
>names for plants. It is probably useful, however, for those of you who >may
>read about Hawaiian taro to know this info.


>The bosses said to add a disclaimer. So give them neither the credit or
>blame for anything I say.
>Also be advised they may read anything you write to me at this address.

>Maurice Major
>Department of Anthropology		Phone:	(808) 847-8282
>Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum	FAX:	(808) 848-4132
>1525 Bernice Street
>Honolulu, HI 96817-0196

Dear Maurice,
  NO arguments from me on the above!!  It`s GREAT info. on the plants we both 
LOVE to eat!  In the literature that I`ve read on Colocasia, someone (and I 
don`t remember who) choose to separate the dasheen (large central corn, few or 
no cormels) from the eddoes (small main corm, numerous cormels surrounding the 
central corm) by adding a variety name to the eddoes and calling it C. e. var. 
antiquorum,or sometimes C. e. var. globulifera, and calling the dasheen 
varieties C.e. var.esculenta, or sometimes C. e. var. typica.  The word 
dasheen is derived from French, "De Chine" ("from China", the East).  
Hawai`ians have perhaps the closest "link" to taro (or kalo), as it is THE 
plant that sustained them on their epic ocean journeys, and still helps to 
bind them and their culture together.
 It is thought that Colocasia esculenta originated in eastern India, spreading 
as a crop to southern China, Formosa, Japan, the Philippines, New Guinea, 
Indonesia, and across the Pacific islands, including Hawai`i.  It also spread 
westward the other way to the Middle East, the eastern Mediterranian, Egypt, 
across to Africa, then across the Atlantic to the Americas as food for the 
tragic human cargo in the 19th Century. What a plant! 
Maurice, do you have info.. on the variety from Nigeria called "Anyamanya" 
Cocoyam ?  It was published in Aroideana Vol.11, No. 1 March 1988.  I can send 
you a copy if you`d like. It is said to flower readily, is fairly resistant to 
Sclerotium rot, and contains little or no calcium oxalate crystals!
What Hawai`ians are calling dasheen ( with stolons), we in Trinidad call "wild 
dasheen" and is thought to have been introduced from Fiji.  Purseglove reports 
that of the 12 varieties tried, including the best one, "mumu", none were as 
good as the varieties being grown, and were rejected where they went wild.
I leave you now to cook and partake of "blue metal" dasheen with steamed fish. 
 Different cultures, different names, same tastes, all WONDERFUL ! ! 
Ah`goseya!  (I`ll be seeing you!)

                                               Julius     ><

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