The name taro is generally used to refer to Colocasia esculenta, one of several major root crops in the Araceae family (aroids). Taro probably originated in southeast Asia or southern Asia. It is believed to be one of the earliest crops to be domesticated with several centers of domestication, one being in New Guinea.
Early Pacific voyagers carried taro with them throughout the Pacific. Taro is still one of the most important staple food items in the region. Besides its importance as a subsistence crop, taro is also produced as a cash crop, mostly for sale in local markets. Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Fiji all produce significant amounts of taro. In addition to being a staple food, taro often has tremendous cultural significance to Pacific islanders.
While taro is the most widely grown aroid throughout the Pacific, there are several related crops that are also grown in the region and which may be more important in certain locations. These are giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis or Cyrtosperma merkusii), giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhiza), and cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium). All of these aroids are important crops throughout the tropical regions of the world. Because of this, each of these aroids has many common names and, confusingly, some common names can refer to more than one of them.
Below are links to comprehensive or overview resources on this crop.
For links on specific topics, select the appropriate category from the list on the left.
Didn't find the taro information you were looking for?
Email your question to the reference librarian
Last updated 7 May 2012
© University of Hawaii at Manoa