The previous weekend was pretty miserable here in Auckland. However a short break in the wind and rain on Sunday provided a moment to plant a small crop of taro kindly donated by our neighbour, at the community garden. Now that we are eating more ancestral foods, taro is regularly on our menu. Taro is fairly affordable and readily available where we live, but the leaves are a bit pricey so we decided to grow our own.
In the New Zealand climate generally the corm does not grow to a size that is suitable for eating however the leaves can be harvested and eaten. Taro leaves must be cooked for a long time, if you haven’t cooked them long enough you will experience an itchy burning sensation in your throat which Tongans call fifisi (literally spicy) from the calcium oxalate crystals.
Here is one way we eat taro and taro leaves, it is based on Vanuatu’s national dish lap lap, which we first read about in Robert Oliver’s cookbook Me’a Kai.
A grated cake of starchy carbohydrate (one or a combination of plantain, taro, or cassava), leafy greens, meat or seafood and coconut cream is baked wrapped in lap lap leaves (banana leaves in our case).
The next taro dish we will try is poi, a Hawaiian dish of fermented mashed taro, that covers both our love of ancestral and fermented foods.