Colocasia antiquorum Schott. Aroideae. Dasheen. Taro.
Tropical Asia. This is very probably an Indian plant, as it is cultivated in the whole of central Asia in very numerous varieties and has a Sanscrit name. It was carried westward in the earliest times and is cultivated in the delta of Egypt under the name of Quolkas. Clusius, writing in 1601, had seen it in Portugal. The Spaniards are said to call it alcoleaz and to have received it from Africa. Boissier cites it as common in middle Spain. Lunan says there are several varieties cultivated in Jamaica which are preferred by the negroes to yams. In 1844, this species was cultivated by Needham Davis of South Carolina, who says one acre of rich, damp soil will produce one thousand bushels by the second year. In India, colocasias are universally cultivated and the roots are without acrimony. The tubers, says Firminger, resemble in outward appearance those of the Jerusalem artichoke. They are not in great request with Europeans in Bengal where potatoes may be had all the year through but in the Northwest Provinces, where potatoes are unobtainable during the summer months, they are much consumed in the way of a substitute. Their flavor is not unlike salsify. The plant is cultivated extensively by the Polynesians, who call it taro; the tubers are largely consumed and the young leaves are eaten as a spinach.
Colocasia antiquorum esculenta Schott. Elephant's Ear. Kalo. Taro.
This plant is largely grown in Tahiti, and Ellis says the natives have distinct names for 33 of the varieties. Nordoff says more than 30 varieties of kalo are cultivated in the Hawaiian Islands and adds that all the kinds are acrid except one which is so mild that it may be eaten raw. Simpson says, "Kalo forms the principal food of the lower class of the Sandwich Islanders and is cultivated with great care in small enclosures kept wet." From the root a sort of paste called poi is made. Masters says it is called taro, and the rootstocks furnish a staple diet. It is also grown in the Philippines and is enumerated by Thunberg among the edible plants of Japan. In Jamaica, Sloane says the roots are eaten as potatoes, but the chief use of the vegetable, says Lunan, is as a green, and it is as delicate, wholesome, and agreeable a one as any in the world. In soup it is excellent, for such is the tenderness of the leaves that they, in a manner, dissolve and afford a rich, pleasing and mucilaginous ingredient. It is very generally cultivated in Jamaica. Adams found the boiled leaves very palatable in the Philippines but the uncooked leaves were so acrid as to be poisonous. At Hongkong, the tubers are eaten under the name of cocoas. In Europe and America it is grown as an ornamental plant.
Colocasia indica Hassk.
Southern Asia. This plant is cultivated in Bengal for its esculent stems and the small, pendulous tubers of its root, which are eaten by people of all ranks in their curries. Royle says it is much cultivated about the huts of the natives. It is also cultivated in Brazil and is found in East Australia. The acridity is expelled from this plant by cooking.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.