Among many forms of the pictorial, I love botanical paintings, and here is one of " Colocasia Esculenta" from one of the best painters in her genre, Mary Grierson, once the official artist for the Royal Gardens at Kew. It was easy enough to incorporate this beauty into this blog as I picked up some Arvi and proceeded to make it for dinner.
Arvi / colocasia , is a corm, a kind of extension to the stem of a plant. It is known as taro in most other countries and dasheen in the West Indies. Dasheen as in 'de Chine'- from China. Actually Colocasia is native to India, not China . Evidence exists of ancient terraced fields made on slopes and hilly areas and planted with this crop , fields now used for cultivating rice.
The plant was carried to South Asia and China much later where it became a common crop as it could grow in well in tropical conditions.From there it spread to the Pacific,the Samoan, Solomon and Hawaiian islands, places where it remains a major part of the diet and is known by a variety of names.
Arvi is very easily digested, which makes it a good choice for children who are allergic to milk as well as people who have problems digesting other types of starch. It has several medicinal uses and contains significant amounts of Vitamin C and B 1 and B12 .
It used to be a regular in the kitchen garden in rural areas here, as cormlets would grow from the last season's corm without much effort or care. In fact it remains an important plant in subsistence farming and could do with a revival in general as a source of starch, healthier than cereals or other grains.Colocasia leaves are also edible and there are many recipes in India for this huuuuge leaf the reason why the plant is also known as Elephants Ear.
Arvi, as long as it is not cooked to slimy sludginess, is pretty nice to eat just as it is, with a few little additions.Here is my recipe for a really quick dish.
- 500 gms ( app. 1 lb) arvi ./ taro
- 1 tsp oil
- 2 tej patta / bay leaves
- 1 inch piece dalchini / cinnamon
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 green chilli ( optional)
- 1 heaped tsp dhania/ coriander powder
- 1 tsp jeera/cumin powder
- Pinch of jaiphal / nutmeg
- Salt to taste.
- 1/2 a lime.( App. 1 tsp lime juice)
Boil arvi /taro in water till done. How long this takes depends on the size. I used arvi about two inches in length and 1 inch thick at the widest point..It took about 20 minutes to cook after the water had reached boiling point. The arvi should remain firm when tested with a fork. Remove from fire and wash immediately in cold water. Remove the skins which should come off easily. Cut into thick pieces and set aside.
Heat 1 tsp of vegetable oil. When hot put in the bay leaves, cinnamon and peppercorns. Add the green chilli at this point if you want it spicy. When the whole spices brown a bit add the arvi and the masalas. Turn the fire down and fry till the the the arvi gets a little crisp. Add the nutmeg and salt . Squeeze the lime juice over the arvi and serve.