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Colocasia Esculenta or Simply Taro.

Updated on May 10, 2011

Taro Silkened

Photo Digital Art
Photo Digital Art

Green and heartshaped, means love, life, giving...perhaps a healing, so does nature speak to us?

In Hawaii, the extraordinary value of Taro is manifest in its numerous important roles: as a staple food, as a figure of legend and as a symbol of cultural identity. It is a progenitor of native Hawaiian culture and an ancient crop that is literally part of the Hawaiian people.

Called Taro, Imperial Taro, Colocasia Esculenta, or Antiquorum, it is considered a "sacred' plant in the Island of Hawaii. It is not mere food, nor a favorite subject painted or photographed by Hawaii's beloved artists and photographers. Taro is important to the Hawaiians, with it's mythic tradition, and for other various reasons, which is why there is a drive to preserve and promote Taro cultivation. . According to Hawaiian legend, Taro has divine origins. The first child of two gods, Wakea and Ho'ohokukalani, was stillborn. Following his burial, the baby's body transformed into the first Taro plant. The second son of the gods, called Haloa, is said to be the father of all native Hawaiians.

As an artist, i have been very fascinated by the Taro plant ever since i came to the Islands. I have known it only to be 'food' where i come from, and not a sacred plant that holds so much meaning to the Hawaiian people. Having seen more of it, not just in gardens, but in art galleries, i have a greater appreciation of what the Taro is all about. In fact, i find myself, completely captivated. I love it's lovely heart shaped leaf, and if one were to look up close, it's as if, there is a face. The leaf blades can be green, purple or mottled. As an artist, i have taken my licence to work with this intriguing subject, and somehow, has uncovered how much more there is to her nature, and incredible beauty. What a delight! The normal eyes see leaf stems (petioles) green, reddish, black or variegated. I've seen more. Notice, the top of the leaf stem is bent so the leaf tips point down, one must wonder if plants have their own language. After all, they are 'alive', There are nearly 300 forms of Hawaiian taro that have been recorded, with differences based on size, shape, color of leaf and stem, and flowers. The flowers are small and clustered on fleshy tubular spike with sterile at tip and middle, fertile male between and female below.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in Taro's nutritional and cultural value. worldwide. Food global production has had some unexpected negative effects on health. Diseases formerly associated with the diets of wealthier, developed regions—diets high in processed foods and often low in diversity—have grown in prevalence in developing countries. The Pacific region is not exempted on this trend, with diabetes and obesity, in particular, affecting increasing numbers of people. The reintroduction of Taro and other nutritious traditional foods has been hailed as a potential solution to the region's worsening health.

Taro Farming

Taro Staple

Click thumbnail to view full-size
PoiLaulauTaro Chips
Taro Chips
Taro Chips

Beyond Food

Taro functions primarily as a food source. Practically the entire plant is edible. The leaves are cooked and eaten like spinach. The stems are placed inside laulaus to keep the meat moist. Occasionally Taro was substituted for fish offerings at various shrines. Medicinally the raw corm shavings were mixed with other plants and the juice was ingested to treat constipation and indigestion. The raw leaf stems were used to relieve the pain and prevent swelling from insect stings and bites and the leaves were used to treat asthma.

Taro leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals, and a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, and a very good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Nowadays Taro products are available in all large American supermarkets. These include Taro chips, Taro bread, Poi, cheesecake, Taro pan, Taro English muffins and Kulolo. Taro is also highly digestible and is bottled as baby food. Although as consumers, we lack the history and culture to appreciate this amazing plant, we can appreciate the delicious products made possible by Taro.

As for me, i plan to enjoy my little green romance and continue to 'immortalize' her loveliness and character, as long as she allows me. Already, Hawaii's fashion icon lady Mamo Howell had taken notice of one of my work, and i have agreed to let her company, by special arrangement, print it in her signature fabric. The clothesline is now out in the market, and may expand to other accessories, such as beach bags, etc. Now you know why i heart Taro. Taro's loving back on me already!.

Taro's of my Heart

Green Masks
Green Masks
Taro Mysteria
Taro Mysteria
Taro Colors
Taro Colors
Taro Hearts
Taro Hearts


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    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Paulette, Taro Cheesecake may be available only specialty pastry shops, Hotels, if they feature them. I don't know of any sold in supermarkets, and any particular outlets.

    • profile image

      Paulette V 

      8 years ago

      Where do I find taro cheesecake in Hawaii ( on Oahu?) I have a friend that is going there and for the life of me I cannot remember where I used to get it when I lived there!

    • BkCreative profile image


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      The Taro design on silk scarves would be beautiful - they naturally go together!

      Ah another thing we have in common - great cheesecake! Thanks for looking out for me!

    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      9 years ago from Hawaii

      Bk, do you know i am crazy about NY cheesecakes? I have a friend, Pascal, who's husband runs a chain of restaurants there, she may know where they sell Taro food and cheesecakes.

      The Taro design i would like to see as silk scarves, and did try to get it done here. When i have success, i will bring you one. Meantime, i await the clothesline. Mamo Howell's stuff are a bit pricey.

    • BkCreative profile image


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      So of course I want the taro cheese cake. And I await your lovely line - that way while I am not on my way to Hawaii at the moment, I can still have a bit of it - it's sooo lovely to look at!

      I will look for this food in NYC! We have everything so it must be out there somewhere! I hope when I find it, it is cheesecake.

    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      9 years ago from Hawaii

      Jiberish, thanks so much! As soon as it is out, i will let you know.

      Creativeone, i'm glad you enjoyed the little information on Hawaii's sacred and staple food.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thanks IslandVoice, I enjoyed all the informative information you gave us. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • jiberish profile image


      9 years ago from florida

      Island I want to be the first to buy your new line. Good Luck with it. :)

    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      9 years ago from Hawaii

      Much aloha Dohn! The 'real Hawaiian's' consider Taro their authentic food, as you saw. There are many ways to prepare it, i too like it, chips, salad, dessert, and entree'. My pleasure to share bits and pieces of my island life.

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I am definitely a fan of Taro. I like it for its unique sweet aftertaste. I can see why it is an important crop and not until today did I know that the Taro is a staple crop (the guy in the first video pointed this out about 5 times!) of Hawaii. I also enjoyed your Taro art as well. Thank you for sharing this, IslandVoice!

    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      9 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks Shalini! I'm doing more research about Taro and am learning a lot about it's value, not only here in Hawaii. I love Indian food, and it would be nice if you can share some of your country's dishes that use Taro. Thanks for dropping by.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      9 years ago from India

      We use it quite a lot in India too - what a wonderful hub about the plant's history and uses! Made even better with your wonderful art - congrats on the new clothesline with your art!


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