Common name: taro
Hawaiian name: kalo
Scientific name: Colocasia esculenta
Native Status: introduced by Polynesians
Common name: taro
Description: Taro is a part of the Arum family. There are over 275 kinds of taro. Taro [Kalo] grows to about a foot or more tall. Some can grow to a great size. The leaves grow in clusters and are shaped like arrowheads. Taro [kalo] has a short underground stem called a corm or root stock. The corm is filled with starch and can grow to about six inches in diameter. A flower stalk grows from the center of the cluster of leaves. A false leaf protects the flower cluster which has male and female flowers. The male flowers grow on the upper part and the female flowers grow on the lower part of the flower stalk. The taro plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that can irritate your mouth. The taro must be cooked well so that the crystals will dissolve and not irritate you.
Uses: The Hawaiians used taro [kalo] for food to eat. It was the main starch for the people. Hawaiians made poi out of taro[kalo]. The first step in making poi was to cook it. They didn't have an oven so they cooked it in an underground oven called imu. After about three hours, the taro came out of the imu. Then men peeled the taro with very clean opihi shells. The poi maker brought out his poi board and his poi pounder called a pohaku ku'i puka. The Hawaiians also baked taro [kalo] and used coconut cream to make kulolo pudding. The Hawaiian people sometimes cooked green leaves for vegetables. Taro [kalo] was a medicine that kept the Hawaiians well. It cured the sores and stopped the bleeding. They rubbed the stem leaf [petiole] on their bodies to prevent insect bites from getting swollen and painful.
Legends: This is a legend explaining why some plants and animals have the same name. Kamapua'a was a demigod. Kamapua'a and Pele were always fighting. Kamapua'a didn't want Pele to follow him so he hid in the sea and changed into a he'e, manini, pueo, and kala. Pele found him so he changed into a lo'i. He went through some other changes, until he had the form of kalo. Pele couldn't follow Kamapua'a because her eyes were blurry from the salty sea water where she had been looking for Kamapua'a earlier. To make sure he lost Pele, he hid in the woods where he changed into animals and trees like the he'e, manini, pueo, and kala. That's how the plants, trees, and sea animals got the same names.
A chief of Kona had a beautiful taro patch. The
plants were very proud because they were so green and tall. A servant
came and told the two tallest taro plants to hide because the chief
was sending two other servants to pull them out. Then the servant
left. Quickly the two taro plants flew and hid by the young banana
plants. The two servants could not find the taro plants.
One day the chief found the taro plants hiding in the banana patch and marked where they were. While he went to get his o'o or digging stick, the two kalo plants flew away and found another place to hide. The two taro plants kept on hiding and hiding until they found a good chief's place. The good chief said no man shall harm you and no man did hurt the two kalo plants.
This story means that men had a right to leave a bad chief and live under a good one.
After pounding the taro, the students
taste it with two or three fingers depending how thick the
poi is. After cooking the corm for a long time,
it is peeled, cut, and pounded. Water is added to thin out
After pounding the taro, the students taste it with two or three fingers depending how thick the poi is.
After cooking the corm for a long time, it is peeled, cut, and pounded. Water is added to thin out the poi.