There Are Too Many Taro Roots

Did you know you can not just go in and buy taro root? Well, you can, but you need to know what kind you are looking for and figure out what kind you need for a recipe and measure out what is medium to one type is small to another and so on and so forth.

I had to research the crap out of taro root this week because I was under the impression I had purchased small taro and bigger taro roots. Little did I know, there are like ten different types of taro root and ten different types of names for each type of those. On top of that, when you look up a recipe for taro root, they all just say “taro root” and no specifications, some of them just say “handful” of taro as well.

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Now, when you go into the grocery thinking of doing taro root and you are faced with six different crates with slightly different looking potatoes, you look for signs.

Unless you are me and just see a sign for taro and think they are all different sizes of the same thing. They are basically that, but they also aren’t, so you see my conundrum.  Which leads me to my internet research where I need to figure out what I indeed have on my hands. This is why I can’t work for poison control.

If I am wrong absolutely 100% please make sure you tell me because nobody enjoys being wrong and talking all about the wrong stuff on a public page. If I am close enough, that’s cool too.

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One of the things that I know is correct is the baby taro. They look like hairy sunchokes and had a sign directly above them that indicated that they were, in fact, baby taro. Now, where my fill-in-the-blank mind went to was that five other compartments to the left of it were just different sized taro. I got a pound of the baby and a pound of what I thought was just normal sized taro.

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The baby taro are about the size of some small potatoes, are hairy and have small ridges like the thorax of a bug. When you cut into them they can either be white or are white with tiny specks of purple. I unfortunately got the boring plain ones because if you break it you buy it and this blog is on a budget.

What I thought was just medium sized taro (and it kind of is, just a different genus) is called malanga. They are a bit longer and can be knobby and may have purple flecks in them, but most photos I’ve seen don’t seem to have it.

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I’m going to stop and say that I have been desperately looking for purple potatoes. I haven’t done my usual amount of research on them yet because I expected to find them by now, but I just want some gorgeous purple potatoes. I’m not talking purple on the outside and white on the inside, no, I want purple all around, or at least just purple on the inside. When I went to the Asian grocery store with my friend we got two little buns from the bakery. She had some sort of lemon thing, but I had to try the taro mochi bun. I had to get an idea what I was in for and I had never had mochi but it always looked delicious.

Uh, surprise, it was delicious. The bread was light purple and covered in black sesame seeds while the mochi was like a filling inside of it and super tasty. The bread part was sweet, but not overbearing sweet and the two seemed perfect for each other. I became even more excited at the prospect of finding my purple potatoes finally.

I get home, don’t get a chance to do anything with them until a few days later after leaving them in the bag and I discover one of my baby taro got too soft and moldy and I had to toss it out. I sliced a bit off to see if I had found one of the pretty taro roots but nope. Just like the dragon fruit before, I didn’t get the cool easily photographed one. This is life though and I guess I am just going to have to get over it. This is one of those times though that I hope that my dishes turn into a purple slop because I would personally love that.

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Above all, I am hoping this is just a tasty mistake more than anything. Taro recipe holders are fairly split on whether or not they are all interchangeable, so I am going to take the stance that they are, but I’ll try and lean towards their more traditional applications at least.

There are actually a few other taro root varieties, in that they belong to the same family just different genus and species (Dear King Phillip Came Over From Greenland Swimming in case you forgot Domain Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species). What I have bought are tropical tubers that can be used in most applications as a potato.

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I will need to be slightly careful though because taro can actually be a slight irritant. I think I’ve learned my lesson from chayote though and may actually get a pair of gloves to trim these down. Since I technically have two different kinds of roots here I will show you all how to prepare them and won’t try them raw in case I have misidentified them. Taro root raw an irritate the skin and throat if it isn’t cooked properly so you may end up seeing some mushy potato dishes and that is just fine with me, so you better get over it.

On that note, I welcome you officially to week 34 and hope you will learn something about tropical potatoes.

(Tropical potato could totally describe me when I’m on vacation, just to let you all know that).

Author: Olivia O.

East Tennessee native with an interest in food and trying new things.

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