Book Review

Taro: Mauka to Makai
A Taro Production and Business Guide For Hawaii Growers

By The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, 3050 Maile Way, Gilmore Hall 199,
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA 96822, 1997.
$14, soft cover, 108 pages.
(Price/availability info may have changed since original publication of review.)

Reviewed by Benjamin F. Kuo (5/2000)

Did you know that farmers in Homestead, Florida, actually grow more taro than is grown in Hawaii? Or that taro is the 14th most produced vegetable in the world? Or about the Hawaiian vocabulary used to describe taro, its parts, related foods, tools, and more? Taro: Mauka to Makai covers all of this and much more.

Taro (Colocasai esculenta) is intimately tied to the history and culture of Hawaii. It is the source of poi, a Hawaiian staple food, much like rice, potatoes, pasta, and bread; lu’au leaf, used by Hawaiians for wrapping food, or cooked and served like spinach; and even taro chips, fried and eaten like potato chips.

Leaving no detail neglected, this book covers everything about taro--from the history of this starchy root, to its production and marketing, to cooking it and preparing recipes from it. This publication is the end product of 47 editors, drawn from researchers at the University of Hawaii, from working farms, and other sources. The information is a "best practices" collection from scientific study and practical experience, and was designed as an overall guide for anyone interested in growing taro.

Clear, detailed instructions on planting density, formulas for estimating water needs, and for propagation make it easy to understand the details of growing this crop. In particular, information about how taro is grown (typically in water or under heavy irrigation) is helpful in understanding the conditions required for successful production. A great deal of attention is also given to responsible use of chemicals for weed and disease control, as well as information about the best fertilizers.

The section about taro cooking and recipes gives lots of different ways to use both the roots and leaves of this plant. Items such as poi (Hawaiian), taro salad (Samoa), Callaloo soup (Caribbean) and more are presented. Nutrition information labels for various forms of cooked taro are also provided.

Finally, a complete reference section presents numerous other sources for information about taro.

Taro: Mauka to Makai is a valuable book for anyone interested in experimenting with taro in a backyard pond or hydroponically.

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