Edible roots of elephant ears: C. esculenta and X. sagittifolium

cabrita(9b SoCal)April 7, 2009

A recent trip to a local Philipino store Âfacilitated a couple more interesting crops for the garden. I could not resist buying two types of roots. They were named Big Gabi and little Gabi. Now seriously, how could anyone resist?

A little research, some speculation, and the goggle image feature showed that little Gabi is also known as Taro, and this is Colocasia esculenta, from the Araceae family. It is one type of elephant ears native from Asia.

Big Gabi looked suspiciously like a long lost favorite food crop of mine, named Name (put a wiggle on top of the N). It does not have that name anywhere in the google world, where the two most common names are Yautia and Malanga. This is the best tasting root crop I have eaten. I love potatoes (irish-inca), sweet potatoes, cassava, taro, sunchokes, all of these, but Name (Malanga) is the most delicious one of all, at least to me and my whole family. These are elephant ears as well (different shape leaves), from the Araceae family too, but different genus, tribe, and species, these are Xanthosoma sagittifolium, native from tropical south and central America.

Both roots were planted in an edible perennial bed I am making (together with artichokes, nice leaves too!). However, I am missing another root, so I was wondering if anyone here would know.

When I lived in Central America (Panama) we made sancocho. It is a tasty and nutritious local soup (stew). It has among many other ingredients some yuca (yuca is cassava), some Name (ah, this is my big Gabi AKA Malanga) and there was a third root, named Otoe. I have goggled Otoe to no avail, except that I got the species name and it is the same species as Name (X. sagittifolium). But it does not look like the root I got at all (Name), and it is not Taro either. It is a smaller root and it is a purplish color. The taste is also different than Name and Yuca. I suspect the foliage might be a different color, purple perhaps? I would love to find this Âthird root. I bet a different color elephant ear would look great in my perennial bed too. Since I am not sure that ALL elephant ears are edible I would prefer to find it as a food root crop. Anyone know what else it would be called? Perhaps someone can tell me if all elephant ears are edible? Then maybe I could search for a purple one, and I bet my root would be there.

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lisazone6_ma(z6 MA)

I buy "malanga" roots in my grocery store to plant as elephant ears. Sometimes I buy them from nurseries if I want a specific type - I'm trying a Black Magic type for the first time this year. The ones I've tried have always given me a green leaf.

I've also seen batata, which I think are some sort of sweet potato and I've been thinking of planting some of those as I grow ornamental sweet potatoes in container groupings, but since I didn't know what color leaves I'd end up with (I want the chartruese and burgundy varieties) I haven't tried them yet. I've seen them with a purplish skin. Not sure if that's what you're looking for, but from my grocery store experients, that's all I've tried sofar. Good luck!


    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 8:57AM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Lisa, thanks for your inputs. How do you harvest the new Malanga roots? does the plant multiply and make more roots? I hear the tender leaves and stalks are also edible. I planted them but have no idea what will happen. This is part of the fun though isn't? I will look into batata. We will be growing sweet potatoes as well (waiting for them to root at the moment) in a different spot.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 12:41PM
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lisazone6_ma(z6 MA)

To tell you the truth, I haven't had much success with saving the root or tuber from season to season - of course you're looking to harvest them for food and I'm simply using them as an ornamental plant! I just hack off the top growth as it dies from frost, then dig up the tuber. Sometimes I don't get to it in time and it's rotted in the ground. I've grown some in pots and just thrown them in my unheated garage overwinter and had them come back the following year, then other times, they just rot. I do notice that at the end of the season when I dig them sometimes they've made small "baby" tubers to the side of the main ones. I live in New England where we get cold, snowy winters so maybe we just don't have a long enough growing season for many new tubers to develop off the main plant. You're in a far warmer zone than I am! I know the roots are edible, obviously since I'm buying mine in the produce dept. of the grocery store! But I have no idea about the stalks or leaves.

If you grow batata from the grocery store, let us know what the leaves are like! Those plants are expensive to buy so if I can get those for pennies from the grocery store compared to dollars for a plant at the garden center, that would be a score!

Sorry I couldn't help more, but as I said, we grow it here as an annual, ornamental plant for the most part.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 2:19PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

The baby tubers you found sound promising! Here they will live on the ground all year long, I might not be able to give them all the water they would like but I am hopeful. Most people do grow them as ornamentals, and as nice as they are I normally do not get excited about ornamentals until someone points out that some are also EDIBLE.

I looked up batata and it sounds tricky to grow (see link below). I will try it if I find it, have not yet but I am still searching for other cool harder to find root crops (turmeric and galangal for example) so I have not exhausted the ethnic markets. I will continue searching.

Here is a link that might be useful: batata

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 3:23PM
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Cabrita, I vaguely remember otoe being Xanthosoma violaceum, but I'm not sure. I am from Panama and to me it's alway's been otoe! Oh, how I miss a good sancocho! You might try to post your question in the aroid forum.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 9:47PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Xanthosoma violaceum, very good, thank you Javi! Knowing the name of the species is a first good step towards finding it. I looked up some images and it is an awesome looking plant too!

You can grow these things in the states and make sancocho here, why not? maybe you are in a cold area? I am not going to bother with the yuca since it is readily available in latin markets where I live and I am not so impressed with its nutritional profile. I only find malanga (name) very rarely and I have never seen otoe anywhere in the states. I have made sancocho and substituted taro root for otoe and this works reasonably well. You also have to use cilantro instead of culantro.

I was pretty excited when I found the Name, I hope it grows. I did find the aroid forum when I goggled searched for some of these roots. It seems every day I find another forum on Garden Web.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 4:29PM
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I live in Tennessee, so sadly I cannot grow these delicious root crops.
I did live in central Florida for many years and had friends there that grew name with success. I was able to grow yuca there (fried yuca chips are the BEST!). Sancocho is also made with name. The one thing I have been thrilled to be able to grow here is culantro. I had my aunt bring me seeds from Panama two years ago and the plants have over wintered.
Please let us know what you find out about X. violaceum!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 9:06PM
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Hi, I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to let you know ñame and malanga are 2 different things. Malanga is the same thing as yautia. Malanga is x. sagittifolium, but ñame is something else, it's yam (the true yam, not the same as sweet potatoes). ñames (the edible part) grow way bigger than malangas/yautias, even though they look similar. Maybe this could solve your third root problem. And also, batata is sweet potato, the one with the purple/reddish skin has white meat and is called batata blanca and the orange one is called batata mameya, whic is the one most people call yams or sweet potatoes in the US. I grew up eating all of these, I can't identify all the plants, but I can certainly id all the tubers/roots, so let me know if you have any questions.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 2:24AM
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