What Do You Do With Tropical Tubers?

I am going to come right out and say that I think taro needs a do over. Not just any do over either.

A purple do over.

Ok, I’ll stop griping about not finding a purple potato, for now, but these were an interesting experience for sure. Taste wise, I don’t believe you will find much of a difference between a taro or malanga and a russet potato. So why do people even bother seeking them out and cooking them instead of just buying a five pound bag from the grocery store around the corner?

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I had to do a little bit of digging, but when I was first looking for recipes, I kept coming across the term “nightshade” and if you are like me, you have only heard it from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas when Sally used it to poison Dr. Finkelstein. You also really loved the jars Sally used to keep all her herbs and poisons too and hoped to have some when you were older only to discover they’re not a real thing.

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Anyway, so there is a huge family of nightshade plants which are mostly inedible but a great big handful of them are some of the more popular things in the produce aisle. I’m still not sure what exactly makes them stand out from other non-nightshade plants and the best description I’ve heard is how the seeds are arranged but even I don’t understand the common thread there. The best thing to do is just look up a list of the nightshade plants and the big ones are eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

Some people have a sensitivity to nightshade plants and it seems to be a big thing in the Paleo community for them to avoid eating them. So the taro root family comes knocking at their door to supply them with their potato-y goodness and honestly, they aren’t missing too much from regular potatoes.

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What about people without a nightshade sensitivity (and no jars from The Nightmare Before Christmas)? Well, they are an experience. When I was looking up taro root stuff, it seemed to mostly be desserts and poi recipes I kept finding. I didn’t wan’t to make poi because I feel like I need to actually know what it tastes like initially before I attempt to make something so iconic.

I loved the malanga chips, but I have no doubts that I could use a potato and be just as equally satisfied in the results. I feel like I’m about to leave taro root and malanga in a stalemate, where I don’t really know what to think of them. I may not buy them and cook them again, but I may order them from somewhere if they are prepared in a tasty sounding way. I may also just order some macaroni and cheese as a carbohydrate because I may prefer macaroni and cheese to potatoes sometimes. I want to throw out there too that contrary to popular Southern belief, macaroni and cheese is not a vegetable. I need every restaurant, deli and fast food establishment to understand that for the sake of the children’s future. Macaroni and cheese is NOT a vegetable.

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When I was making the rolls, I did get a second to dip a spoon into the mashed baby taro root and see what the fuss is about. There wasn’t really a fuss. There wasn’t even a peep to be found in that bite. I was eating mush and I felt like I had a connection to babies who have to eat food from jars. Not much flavor is what I’m getting at, even for a mashed potato-like-object, it was fairly bland.

I kept expecting there to be some sort of hidden sweetness or completely different flavor that has been a well kept secret for ages, but I think if I had mashed up any other vegetable I would have been able to have more flavor. I think that is part of the reason I had to put the curry powder in with the mashed malanga. In the words of my parents, “you gotta doctor it up.”

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I’m going to make this short and sweet, unlike the malanga but the taro root was short, that if you get a chance at a restaurant or most likely food truck to eat taro, eat taro. If you are in the store and see taro root offered and have never tried it, maybe let someone else cook it up who loves it and can introduce it to you. If you don’t feel like trying it, I don’t fault you, you’re not missing much.

Thank you all again for reading and keeping up with things this past week. It has been a busy week here because I apparently made sure to schedule all my doctor appointments this month, getting nails in my tire, and deciding I needed a haircut finally. I didn’t want to miss out on conclusion day for this and I’m in under the wire. Go out there and try something new!

Author: Olivia O.

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

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