What Is Taro Root? Cocoyam, Eddo, Dasheen Health Benefits

Photo of the dasheen from my back yard
Photo of the dasheen from my back yard

What is Taro?

Taro is a root vegetable that is otherwise known as cocoyam, coco yam or coco. I grew up eating it. This was one of my grandfather's main crops.

There are different species or types of taro but the main kinds grown in Jamaica are the minty coco, ju coco, and dasheen.

The minty and ju-coco are from the same breed of tarro known as the eddoe. The minty coco is white when peeled and is soft boiled. The ju-coco has a light purple colour and hard boiled, meaning, it is very firm even when cooked and is better eaten when hot because it gets even harder when cold.

The dasheen is soft boiled and my favourite of all the taro available. Some dasheen are white while others have a slight puplish colour.

It is believed (in Jamaica) that some root vegetable like yams and taro changes colour when planted during the height of the moon. These vegetables are popularly called moonshine yam or moonshine dasheen.

Some people may refer to the taro as a potato but it is not. Potatoes grow on vines and taro is a tuber. See photo.


So here is the real deal about taro

The taro comes from the Araceae family which consist of several species. There are two major types of taro: the eddoe and the dasheen.

The Eddoe is the one in the photo just below this capsule and is the one Jamaicans refer to as coco. The eddoe also consist of several types like I described earlier. Some with purplish colouring and other white on the inside.

It is believed that the eddoe was first cultivated in China and Japan then brought to the West Indies when the Chinese came as expatriates to find work. Eddoe can be grown in almost any soil but prefers loamy well drained soils. Temperatures can range from very cool to very warm and does not take a lot of maintenance.

The Dasheen is the other taro that likes a lot of water. It is best cultivated near waterbeds however the water has to be in constant flow as stagnant water propagates rotting of the roots. The dasheen is much bigger in size than the eddoe.

This crop was first grown in Asia and like eddoe, found its way around the globe. Both the root and the leaves of this plant can be eaten and is used in many cuisines around the world.

Photo of the eddoe

From my back yard
From my back yard | Source

The uses of Taro in Jamaica

I grew up eating this wonderful root vegetable and I thought everyone knew what it was until I mentioned it in a recipe and was asked about it. Here in Jamaica we use taro in many ways. Both the root and leaves can be eaten but here in Jamaica we use the root more so than the leaves.

  • Main staple: The most popular way is using the root as a main staple or carb on our plates. It is usually served with dumplings. Other carbs on the plate might be bananas, yams and potatoes. Yes in Jamaica yams are different from potatoes.
  • Soups (known as stew in America) Another use for taro (root) in Jamaica is for adding to soup. The soups served in Jamaica is equivalent to what is a stew in the Americas and Europe. Whereas a soup in these other countries is a light dish served with something else, a soup in Jamaica is rich and has all the veges, carbs and protein, it's a one-pot meal.
  • Pudding: A Jamaican style pudding is made from vegetables or cornmeal. The two puddings that are Jamaican are the sweet potato pudding and the cornmeal pudding. The sweet potato pudding is made by grating the sweet poatao and taro and mixing up with cinnamon, vanilla, coconut milk and sugar. Then baking on a coal stove or wood fire with heat on top and heat at the bottom.
  • Roasting: In olden days our grandparents use to roast the taro on hot coals or on a wood fire. We would eat roast potatoes, roast yams and roast taro with roast salt fish.
  • The leaves are used in what we call a pepper pot soup. This soup is made from coconut milk, lots of root vegetables, okra and the young taro leaves. It is very spicy and uses lots of pimento seed and scotch bonnet peppers.

So next time you go to the market have a look out for taro. Not only is it delicious but very nutritious as well.

show route and directions
A markerchina -
China
[get directions]

The first place the eddoe was cultivated. One of the first places the dasheen was found

B markerJapan -
Japan
[get directions]

One of the first places the dasheen was found.

Nutrition information for the Dasheen Taro - 1 cup cooked

Nutrient
Amount Per Serving
Daily Value
Protein
0.7g
1%
Calories
187
-
Total Carbs
46g
15%
Dietary Fiber
7g
27%
Vitamin A
111 IU
2%
Vitamin B6
0.4mg
22%
Vitamin C
6.6 m
11%
Vitamin E
3.9MG
22%
Vitamin K
1.6mcg
2%
Thiamin
0.1mg
9%
Riboflavin
-
2%
Niacin
0.7mg
3%
Folate
25mcg
6%
Pantothenic Aicd
0.4mg
4%
Choline
28mg
-
Calcium
23.8mg
2%
Iron
1mg
5%
Magnesium
39.6mg
10%
Phosphorus
100mg
10%
Potassium
639mg
18%
Sodium
19.8mg
1%
Copper
0.3mg
13%
Manganese
0.6mg
30%
Selenium
1.2mcg
2%
Water
84.2g
 
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
18.5mg
 
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
42.4mg
 
The dasheen plant, from my back yard as well
The dasheen plant, from my back yard as well

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Manganese in Taro

Manganese is essential for bone health, metabolism, calcium absorption, thyroid health, regulating blood sugar and metabolizing carbs and fats. This mineral is found in the body in minute quantities and is also found in many foods.

The benefit to bone health is that it increases the density of bones especially the spinal bone. Women need manganese more so than men because of the the depletion in body after they reach menopause. It is important that women get adequate amount of this mineral in the diet post menopause so as not to suffer from osteoporosis.

Not only is manganese good for bone health but for regulating blood sugar as well. This is very important as many of us are at risk for high blood sugar and this mineral can prevent us from getting diabetes.

Manganese is a very powerful antioxidant and we know how important antioxidants are in fighting free radicals and other disease causing agents. Free radicals not only cause diseases but promotes premature aging.

Without manganese in our bodies or diet we will not be able to metabolize cholesterol, amino acids and carbohydrates. It also metabolizes Vitamin B1 and E.

Here are some other benefits of manganese:

  • adequate amounts in the diet reduce epileptic seizures
  • helps to fight inflammation
  • relief of PMS symptoms
  • proper brain and nervous system function
  • helps keep the digestive tract healthy.

Vitamin B6

One serving of Taro contains 22% of our daily vitamin B6 needs. This water soluble vitamin also known as pyridoxine, is not stored in the body and is needed on a daily basis. There are lots of fruits and vegetables which contain this vitamin so with proper diet we should get adequate supply.

The primary role of B6 in the body is to aid with the metabolic process. It works with other enzymes in the body to ensure the metabolic process is properly carried out.

Here are some functions of the B6 vitamin

  • proteins, sugars and fat metabolism
  • brain chemical synthesis
  • strengthens immune system
  • hemoglobin formation and function
  • genetics

Without adequate amounts of this vitamin in the diet persons may experience skin problems, sores on the tongue, convulsions and lack of brain activity/memory/speech/thought. A deficiency may also cause depression.

Due to the fact the vitamin B6 is needed for the formation of haemoglobin or red blood cells and deficiency may also result in anemia.

One cause of B6 deficiency is the consumption of alcohol as this contributes to the vitamin's depletion in the body. Improper nutrition and lack of a variety of different foods may also result in this deficiency.

Dietary fiber

Dietary fiber is found in all vegetable and fruits. It is also known as roughage and it is that rough part of the vegetable that the body cannot absorb and is usually passed out of our system. However dietary fiber has it very important uses and must never be taken for granted. Dietary fiber comes in two forms: the fat soluble fiber and the water soluble fiber.

  • Fat soluble fiber is also known as insoluble fiber. This means that is cannot be dissolved in water. This fiber helps to prevent constipation my removing build up in the colon. It helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract and is the bulk of your stool.
  • Water soluble or soluble fiber can be dissolved in water and when it does it usually forms a gel-like substance. Taro has mostly water soluble fiber. This fiber is responsible for the lowering of blood sugar and cholesterol.

Dietary fiber is very important in the maintaining of the digestive health. It regularizes bowel movements and makes it easier to 'go out'. The more fiber in the diet the better and more comfortable the bowel movement. Roughage cleanses the colon by removing particles that may have lodged there and so keeps it free and clean.

The more fiber in the diet the less carbs you will need. Fiber also helps to make you feel full and so you will actually eat less. Because of the fibrous nature of some foods, you have to chew more which makes you less hungry as you eat. This helps to reduce the amount of food you actually take in at any one time this assisting in weight loss.

Taro is one such root vegetable which contains adequate amount this valuable nutrient.

Other Nutritional Benefits of Taro - Dasheen

The table above has given an indication of the nutritional contents of the taro known as dasheen. There are some ingredients that outweigh the others and every ingredient contained in food has some nutritional benefit.

We can see that taro has a few nutrients that are beneficial to our diets and the carb count is also very low. Another thing to note is that dasheen is low in sodium but high in potassium which makes it great for people suffering from hypertension.


  • Vitamin E: Powerful antioxidant which helps to fight free radicals. This vitamin also aids in the metabolism of proteins and assist with proper brain activity. Studies also show that people with adequate supply of vitamin E are at a lower risk for heart disease and heart failure. Vitamin E is also essential for the hair, skin and nails because of its antioxidant properties.
  • Potassium: This mineral counteracts the effects of sodium in the diet by pulling away the salts in the body. It acts a s diuretic and allows the kidneys to flush away excessive sodium and water. The mineral is also essential for muscle contraction along with other essential minerals. Other roles played by potassium are for bone health,lower high blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke and to treat inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Carbohydrates: This is a nutrient that everyone needs everyday. Others may need more than some but without it you cannot build muscles. It also provides the energy. Carbs also contain fiber and fiber aids in digestion.
  • Copper: Copper aids in growth and development, eye function, hair health, how the body metabolises iron, helps heal wounds, proper heart function and thyroid health.
  • Vitamin C: Maybe the most popular and sought after vitamin as it is believed to boost the immune system. Some people swear by vitamin C to help prevent the flu. We know it is essential in the diet as it is one of the most powerful antioxidants. It is needed every day because the body does not store this nutrient. Other than boosting the immune system vitamin C also protect against heart disease, reduce skin aging, protects against prenatal problems related to health issues and diseases of the eye.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is essential in the diet in order to prevent muscles spasm and dehydration. This mineral aids in the contracting and relaxing of the muscles in the body. It also plays an important role in the production of protein and energy. You can overdose on magnesium so you should be careful about supplements containing this mineral. In most cases the foods we eat will give us adequate supply of the nutrient. Some magnesium overdose effects are lethargy, weakness in the muscles and excessive excitability. A deficiency of magnesium will result in sleepless nights, confusion, low brain function, excessive tiredness, muscle spasms, numbness, hearing things, rapid heart beat and delirium. Other foods which contain this mineral are bananas, avocados, apricots, nuts, legumes, soy and grains.
  • Phosphorus: This mineral aids with the proper passing of the stool, the synthesizing of proteins, hormone balance, energy, cell repair, bone health and development, digestion and the proper utilization of other nutrients in the body.

© 2012 Carolee Samuda

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Comments 31 comments

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

Interesting information about taro. When we visited Jamaica the food we ate was part of the hotel package where we stayed and unfortunately it was very American. We were only there 3 days for a wedding but would love to come back and really experience the culture. We really enjoyed our visit there so much.

The taro sounds like a very healthy vegetable and I don't know if it is available at the grocery stores around us. Interesting hub.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Pamela, I always say to people, if you want to experience the culture you need to visit the people in the country side. The hotels and up-scale restaurants are too foreign-like. They don't serve authentic Jamaican food. I you have a Jamaican market near you, you can get the taro there.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Have a wonderful evening.


livingpah2004 profile image

livingpah2004 4 years ago from USA

I love Taro root and called Arvi in India. We grew up eating this vegetable too. Here you can find in any Asian grocery store carry this. Very well researched and written hub. Useful and voted up.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you Livingpah2004. I wanted to put all the places that taro can be found but the hub would have been too long. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great evening or is it morning where you are?


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this. First I ever heard of cocoyams


Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 4 years ago from United States

Hi Cardisa! I had never heard of Taro before this hub. I would really like to try it. Kudos for a well-written hub.

I hope you are doing better.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Mhatter99, glad I could teach you about one of our foods. Have a great Friday.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Dexter, I am surprised that you didn't know it...lol.. I am hanging in there, some days up and others down but not too bad.


JaydenMiller profile image

JaydenMiller 4 years ago from USA

Hello, Cardisa. I wanted to congratulate you on writing a very informative hub. When you learn something new, the writer has done an effective job. I learned something new today.

Thank you.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you JaydenMiller. I really appreciate you reading and was very happy to write this hub. Happy Friday!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I always learn lots from reading your hubs. This is another great post and very well done.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you Teaches. I am always happy to have you visit as well. Have a great weekend.


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Sooo interesting. I always wondered about that strange looking root at the market. Now I know! Cheers.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Green Lotus. Now you know what it is...lol. I hope you get to try it, it's really healthy.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I'd love to try taro, and I think I've seen it in the grocery store. I'll have to buy some next time I'm shopping. Really interesting hub.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Susan, I hope you do try taro and let me know how you like it. Thanks for the visit, really appreciate it. Have a great Sunday.


YogaKat profile image

YogaKat 4 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

We have a taro in Hawaii, that the locals use to make poi, and use in many recipes as well. I saw some dasheen at the organic grocery and wondered what it was . . . now I know ALL about it . . . thanks!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you for reading and commenting. I am glad that you now know more about the taro.


lady vee 3 years ago

taro could also be roasted and enjoyed with palm oil. there is also a specie that could be used for soup its really nutritious


IslandBites profile image

IslandBites 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

We call it malanga in Puerto Rico, very popular root vegetable. Nice hub.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hello IslandBites, never heard that name but I know the root is very popular in some other countries. Do you have any particular dishes for it? Thanks for stopping by.


IslandBites profile image

IslandBites 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

The common way to prepare it is boiled, then served with olive oil. Most of the time, we serve it along other root vegetables as a side dish, specially with salted cod. We also do malanga chips, mashed (like potatoes), cream, and so on.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you. We serve ours with other vegetables and protein as a part of the meal. I would really love to try the chips.


mecheshier profile image

mecheshier 3 years ago

Great Hub. Fabulous information here. Voted up for useful and interesting. Thanks for sharing and all your hard work!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you Mecheshier. Thank you for voting and leaving such a nice comment. Have a great day.


Mason 2 years ago

What are the health benefits of the coco leaves? Also is there a specific way to prepare them?


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 2 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hello Mason. Taro leaves are packed with potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin b6. You can also find iron, magnesium, calcium and Vitamin C in smaller amounts. I don't use it much so don't have a lot of experience with it. I know you can cook it like spinach because they taste similar but taro leaves are toxic when raw so you must cook it first. You can also wrap food you are about to steam in the leaves and steam them that way. I also understand that you can wrap fish you are about to cook in the oven with it. You wrap the fish and then you foil the fish and roast as usual. In Jamaica we use the young leaves in what is called a pepper pot soup.


naturalhealth 23 months ago

Great info. I found taro root in store in my town and it looked like coco yam and i wanted to find out if it was the same root and it is. I have had it a couple of times in Jamaica (my husband is from there). I will have to buy some now for him. Thank you for your research.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 23 months ago from Jamaica Author

Naturalhealth, thank you for stopping by. I have taro growing in my back yard. I love this root vegetable, it's good for a lot of things.


MPAMA SAMUEL. U 20 months ago

COCOYAM IS RICHER THAN YAM IN VITAMINS.PLS WRITE ON VITAMINS A AND C


onyi 16 months ago

I am a Nigerian.we call it ede uhe for the purple cocoyam.it is used as a soup thickener,roasted and eating with palm oil and pepper

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