Taro: Good For More Than Poi

Adam Asquith with twins Sean and Nihi. Daniel Lane photos

What’s available now: Taro, poi, zucchini, tomatoes, sweet corn, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, radish, eggs, grass-fed beef

TARO Season: available year round

Kalo, (the Hawaiian word for taro) is very filling, and according to taro farmer Adam Asquith, it’s the ultimate slow food. “It forces us to slow down and take the time to do things that are more healthy for us.” It takes years to build the farming infrastructure, at least a year to grow into something edible and depending on size, can take an hour to cook.

Cooking:

Gently boil whole, unpeeled taro corms for an hour or until a knife easily pierces through them. Peel and mash it like you would potatoes or cut it into cubes. Cooked and stored in the refrigerator, it will last two weeks before it begins to sour. You can make patties or add the cubes to soups, curries or stir-fries. I like to cut it into 1/4-inch thick disks, sprinkle salt and pepper over the disks and fry it until they’re golden brown. The crispy outside and creamy inside goes well with tomato sauce and mozzarella, kind of like chicken Parmesan.

Tip:

“There’s research showing that when people change just the starch component of their diet from rice, potatoes or corn to taro, they become much healthier,” Asquith says. “In our family of five, we eat a minimum of 25 pounds of taro a week. Once we started doing that, we all lost weight. If you look at your total caloric needs for a day, taro can provide a lot of that.”

Health benefits:

A natural bacteria complex, such as in yogurt, called Lactobacillus is what makes taro easy to digest. This bacteria – which survives the cooking process – also causes poi to ferment.

Taro supports a healthy immune system and assists intestinal functioning by maintaining intestinal flora and reducing symptoms associated with bowel and stomach discomfort.

Kaua’i Taro Company’s taro is available at:

Papaya’s Natural Foods and Cafe and Kealia Farmers Market (Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.). It also provides poi for the Kawaikini New Century Public Charter School fundraisers. Call 635-8290 for custom orders of taro or poi, minimum 25-pound poi order.

PAPAYA’S TARO BURGER WITH PINEAPPLE SLAW AND MANGO CHIPOTLE AIOLI

Papaya’s Natural Foods and Cafe chef Peter Zimmer is a five-time James Beard Award-winner, master chef and author of Earth Dance, a cookbook celebrating local farmers and organic produce. Here, he shares his recipe for the taro burgers he served June 5 at the Taste of Hawaii using taro from the Kaua’i Taro Company.

Chef Zimmer with his taro burgers

For Taro Burgers:

* 1 1/2 pounds taro
* 1 1/2 cups cooked organic brown rice
* 1 bunch organic rainbow chard, chopped
* 1 bunch organic kale, chopped
* 1/2 cup minced organicginger
* 1/2 cup shredded organiccarrots
* 1/2 cup diced organicwhite onions
* 1/2 cup diced organicblue oyster mushrooms
* 1/2 cup diced organicportobello mushrooms
* 1 tablespoon minced organic garlic
* 1/2 tablespoon chopped organic parsley
* 1/2 tablespoon chopped organic thyme
* 1/4 tablespoon chopped organic chili flakes(chipotle is best)
* 1/2 tablespoon Papaya’s Salt Mix (can usekosher salt and 5 mélange peppercorns

For Mix:

* 2 tablespoons coconut oil (butter)
* 1 tablespoon organic olive oil (for grilling or pan-searing taro burger) It is best to grill the mushrooms and onions first and then dice them. However, just dicing them raw will make your tummy and soul happy as well. Boil taro in lightly salted water until tender, approximately 20 minutes. Cool and peel the taro and chop roughly. Place the taro in a food processor and puree to a rough smooth consistency and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Place half of the cooked rice in the food processor and puree until a smooth consistency and place in bowl with taro. Combine remaining ingredients in taro and rice bowl and mix with hands until combined well. Divide the taro mix into six portions and grill or pan-sear until slightly caramelized on each side, approximately three minutes on each side over medium heat. Serve with favorite bread, naan, bun, wrap or lettuce cup with all the “trimmings.”

Makes four to six servings.

For Chipotle Aioli:

* 1 cup Vegenaise
* 1 clove organic garlic
* juice and zest of 1 lemon
* juice and zest of 1 lime
* 1 tablespoon organic paprika
* 1/2 tablespoon ground organic chipotle powder
* 1/2 tablespoon ground organic chile negro (or pasilla powder)
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh mango
* 1/2 tablespoon coconut vinegar

In blender, combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. Set aside and use to add a wonderful kick to your grilled vegetables, fish and taro burger

For Pineapple Slaw:

* 2 cups shredded organic napa cabbage
* 2 stalks organic green onions, sliced fine
* 1/2 bunch finely chopped cilantro (can use basil)
* 1 cup finely diced fresh organic pineapple
* juice from 1 lemon
* 1 tablespoon organic agave
* 1/2 tablespoon organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar

This quick slaw likes to be tossed as a fresh salad. Mix it just when ready to grind! Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and lightly fold in lemon, agave and vinegar. This slaw is wonderful atop anything or just as is.

Makes four to six servings.

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