There have been numerous claims by nutritionists and doctors who have said eating the rainbow colors is good for your health. It may not always be easy incorporating blues, reds, greens, or yellows if you have a limited pallet or dietary restriction.
Enter taro, a purple root vegetable that is often compared to the sweet potato in texture.
Taro tastes similar to a sweet potato but takes on the flavor of what it is added to. It has a sweet, slightly vanilla flavor and a light nutty finish.
There are many different varieties of taro and each variety of taro will differ in taste, much like potato varieties differ.
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Where Does Taro Come From?
Taro is commonly grown in many parts of Asia. It is a popular dietary component for many Asian Pacific Islands and parts of North America.
In Hawaii, taro has not only dietary benefits but medicinal a well. It was believed that taro could cure or prevent cancers and improve vision.
What is Taro Commonly Used For?
The root vegetable taro has been an underrated vegetable, up until recently. Nowadays, there is a push to find healthier alternatives to popular fast-food snacks and dishes.
One of the most common healthy alternatives that taro is used for is chips. Compared to the potato chip, taro chips are a healthier alternative.
They contain less fat and more fiber than the potato. Other ways that the taro is used for is in soups, stir-fry, mashed taro, and as a dessert.
Many taro eaters associate the color purple with taro. What eaters of this vegetable may not know is that the actual root vegetable can be white or pink, though purple is the most common color.
Many non-Asian cultures know taro as the main ingredient for their popular desserts, such as ice cream, sweet buns, and cakes. In a way, the taro’s subtle sweetness makes it a great alternative to anything that a potato is used for.
Benefits Of Taro
Did you know that there are anywhere between five to seven grams of fiber in a cup of taro? This makes it a great healthy food choice for anyone looking to increase their fiber intake, lower their cholesterol or blood sugar levels.
One way of looking at the taro is as the healthier relative of the potato. Textually, they are very similar as well; what some may find different is the flavor.
While the potato’s flavors are brought out with the help of spices and butter, the taro vegetable has a sweetness that is not overpowering. I find that taro can easily and flawlessly replace the potato as starch in many recipes because of this.
Taro Recipe Ideas
For those who are still unsure as to what the taro can be used for, I recommend the following recipes where taro can be used as either a main ingredient or as a substitute.
- Pancakes– In many North American households, pancakes are made with flour; however, they can also be made with almond and other types of grain flours. Pancakes can also be made using shredded potatoes – but did you know that you can shred taro and make purple pancakes?
- Cheesecake – Are you looking for a clever way to give your cheesecake a purple tint without using food coloring? What about a taro infused cheesecake?
- French Fries – Move over potato fries, taro is in town. Consider slicing up taro and preparing it the same way you would potato fries. To give it some flavor, coat them with sea salt or your favorite spices.
- Arbi Ki Sabji – This is the taro version of Indian pakora, which uses chickpeas. This is a great served on the side or as a main course with some masala and rice.
Anyone with dietary restrictions understands how hard it can be to try to find food alternatives to those who have no health or dietary restrictions. Thankfully, taro is not only an alternative, but it’s a great healthy option that many don’t know about.
Tips For Buying And Storing Taro
Learning about a new vegetable is both exciting and daunting.
Why? For one, when deciding to incorporate it in a recipe, there is this sudden burden of making sure the taro you chose at the store is ripe or ready to eat.
While taro is becoming more poplular, it still may not be prevalent in large chain grocery stors. You may need to seek out smaller specialty food grocers to find taro, specifically Asian grocers since taro is native and popular there.
When it comes to buying taro, consider the following tips:
- Pick a root that is not soft, but firm to touch
- There are no cuts to the skin of the root
- It does not have a moldy smell
- It is brown, similar to tree bark; this shows it was harvested at the right time
Once you have selected your taro for cooking, consider the following tips as ways of keeping it as fresh as possible.
- Store at room temperature – do not put taro in the fridge.
- If possible, place in a paper bag, this ensures longer freshness. If you have a cellar, that is an ideal storing space.
Unlike many vegetables, taro is a vegetable that requires some caution when preparing and cooking. I have seen recommendations to use gloves when peeling taro.
Taro has oxalic acid crystals, which can cause severe skin irritation for some. On the other hand, if using gloves is not possible, consider using oil to lather one’s hands to avoid possibly irritating.
Not everyone experiences this, though – it may be a trial and error for those that have not cooked or prepared taro before.
Final Thoughts On Taro
Taro is a root vegetable that offers many health benefits, but that can also be used in a wide array of recipes. From appetizers to main courses and desserts, taro is slowly making its way to many American household tables.
It is similar to familiar starchy vegetables like potatoes which makes it an easy healthier substitute. While it’s not mainstream yet, you can easily find taro at Asian and Indian grocery stores since it is a common ingredient in those cuisines.
Bring some color to the next dinner party with the purple and subtly sweet taro.