“Taioba is one of the most important food crops in the world,” Frank Mangan told us. It originally came from the Amazon in Brazil, but it is now grown in Asia, Central America, and Africa, mostly for its roots. It is a similar plant to taro, which originated in Southeast Asia. “But in parts of Brazil and in West African countries like Ghana,” Frank said, “They traditionally eat the leaves.”
How Taioba Is Grown
“Taioba is a truly tropical plant,” Mangan explained. It won’t survive the winter on Martha’s Vineyard, though it thrives in the summer, like the many other tropical plants, including sweet corn, tomatoes, and peppers, we grow here. Plants will thrive until the first frost. Many small-scale growers are planting their taioba in special boxes they can bring inside for the winter.
How To Harvest Taioba
Harvest taioba leaves one at a time. It is best to cut a fully unfurled leaf when there is another leaf unfurling; you can cut it anywhere on the stem. If you do cut the only fully unfurled leaf from the plant, make sure that you don’t damage the next leaf (usually about 2 inches down) that the stem is starting to produce. Also, the longer the leaves are left on the plant, the bigger they will grow. In the hot summer weather, you’ll be able to harvest a leaf about every 10 days. Growth slows in cooler weather.
How To Cook Taioba
Taioba must be cooked—you cannot eat it raw. The leaves contain a low level of calcium oxalate that will irritate your throat. But once it is cooked, Frank says, “It has the consistency of spinach, but it is the best spinach I have ever had.” Taioba is traditionally sautéed with garlic and olive oil and served as a side dish; but it can just as easily then be used as a stuffing, a pizza topping, or an omelet filling.