Taro is More than "Just Starch"
by Amy Levendusky
Taro, in particular giant swamp taro, Cyrtosperma chamissonis (mwahng), is an important local staple food in Pohnpei. A misconception held by many people, including well-educated off-island visitors, is that taro is "just starch". However, research confirms that taro is a rich source of essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber and is thus particularly important for maintaining good health.
All types of taro are good sources of the essential minerals, in particular iron and calcium, important respectively for building strong blood and the bones and teeth.
Recent studies have shown that Pohnpei Cyrtosperma cultivars are also rich in zinc (a mineral important for fighting infection) as well as iron and calcium.
Another exciting recent finding is that of the rich carotenoid levels in yellow-fleshed Cyrtosperma cultivars. Carotenoid levels ranged as high as 1700 and 1651 ug (micrograms) of beta-carotene/100 grams respectively in cooked Six-moon and Simihden cultivars, which are yellow-fleshed. A standard cup of taro weighs about 250 grams. Consumption of foods rich in provitamin A carotenoids, including beta-carotene, helps protect against vitamin A deficiency disorders and anemia. Consumption of foods rich in these and other carotenoids helps protect against chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. All Cyrtosperma cultivars (and other taro types) are superior to rice in respect to carotenoid content, as all types of taro contain at least some beta-carotene, whereas rice contains none.
Due to the large amounts of taro that are often consumed, a non-pregnant, non-lactating woman could meet her estimated daily vitamin A requirements by consuming four cups per day of taro of the cultivars containing as low as 300 ?g of beta-carotene/100 grams.
Taro, in particular, Cyrtosperma, is also rich in fiber, which helps control diabetes. Fiber appears to reduce the absorption of glucose (sugar) from the food that is consumed. Studies have shown that subjects who increased their consumption of fiber were able to decrease their total cholesterol levels.
IFCP thanks Mrs. Kasko Samson for her recipe of Soro (Giant Swamp Taro or Mwahng) from Pingelap which is shown below.
Soro (Giant Swamp Taro or Mwahng)
1 good sized corm Giant Swamp Taro (Mwahng), ground
8 coconuts, grated
3 tablespoons sugar
1. Wash, peel, and grind taro.
2. Place on leaves (ground giant swamp taro) and wrap up.
3. Bake or boil the taro wrapped up in the leaves until done.
4. Then remove the cooked taro from the leaves and place in a pan.
5. Squeeze the coconut cream on top of the taro and then pound it in.
*Note: If you add sugar, add sparingly, as sugar is not good for the health.