Taro is a plant that requires hard work and patience to grow it to maturity. Many know taro as “poi,” which is a staple food for the Hawaiian people. It is a very nutritious food.

This plant is very starch rich. It is an underground root, known as a “corm,” that is the globular fleshy taproot of aroid family plants. If you do not cook your taro enough, the calcium oxalate in the taro will make your throat uncomfortably itchy. If you use a Chinese taro, which has less oxalates, you will not have such an itchy mouth. A remedy to eating undercooked taro is to rinse you mouth with salt or baking soda solution to eliminate the irritation. The taro corm have special cells that contain bundles of fine needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate called “raphides.” They can cause a stinging sensation in your mouth!

Taro is grown in Asia, Oceania, Africa, and the Caribbean. It is known by many names: Brazil (taioba); China (ya, yu-tao); Columbia (chonque); Cuba (guagui);Dominica Repulic (malanga); Indonesia (taro de Chine, arvi); Japan (imo, sato imo); Malaysia (ta’o, keladi, tallas);  Philippines (gabi, abalong, amalong, dagmay, gablos); Samoa (talo); Spain (tayoba); Tonga (talo, talo Tonga); Vietnam (khoai au nu’octrang, khou-au ku’ou tuiang); West Indies (eddoe, dasheen, cocode Chine, curcas, chou bouton); and Venezuela (danchi, ocumo culin).

The Latin name for taro is in the family of Araceae. There are four basic genera: Colocasia, Xanthosoma, Alocasia, and Cyrtosperna. Taro has been used over many centuries by man.  There are over 300 varieties of taro worldwide, 85 of them grow in Hawaii.

It takes about twelve months to mature and has clusters of large leaves that vary in colour from red to green, to black and variegated. In Hawai’i, the leaves are called lau or lu’au.  One cup of taro leaves contains calcium and a third of the daily allowance of Vitamin A.

I enjoy eating taro ice-cream, not only because it is purple, but because it is very flavourful. It goes great with a bright orange mango ice-cream!



Salt has been around for hundreds of years. It was once used as a form of currency. Countries once were taxed on their salt. Did you know that in China salt tax revenues were used to build the Great Wall? … Continue reading

Upcoming Topics for Culinary Book Group

The first Wednesday of each month, from noon to 1 p.m., in the Central Library Book Club Room (located near the Locust Street Atrium Cafe), Culinary Librarian, Spruce Fraser, has a culinary book group.

Upcoming Topics include:

July 6, 2016 – Organic Vegetables

August 3, 2016 – Fruits

September 7, 2016  – Breakfast Foods

October 5, 2016 – Whole Grain Foods

November 2 – Coffees

December 7 – Teas

Please feel free to bring your family and friends to this FREE culinary discussion. Often local executive chefs are guests! For more information, please call Spruce at (314) 539-0390 or email her at sfraser@slpl.org.  Looking forward to meeting new faces!


Next Culinary Discussion -July 6

Please come join me to learn more about organic foods. Find out what is the definition and when food produce and products started to be called organic. We meet every first Wednesday of each month at noon to 1 p.m. in the Locust Street Monthly Book Club Room, located right next to our Central Library Cafe.

I will be bringing examples of a few store bought organic produce for those joining me to sample. As well, if you have any questions make sure you bring them! Being the book selector for gardening and culinary books at Central Library, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips!

If you have any questions, please call me at (314) 529-0390 or email me at sfraser@slpl.org.

Looking forward to meeting new people!

from Spruce the Culinary Librarian

Chia Seeds


What is a chia plant you may ask? Chia is the common name for Salvia hispanica L. It is in the Lamiaceae family, which includes mint and sage.  The word “chia” comes from Nahuatl, a vernacular Aztec language, and means … Continue reading