The taro (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott) is an herbaceous perennial, mostly cultivated as an annual. It grows up to a height of 2 m. Its adventicious and shallow root system arises from the corm, a swollen underground stem that contains high levels of fine starch and weighs up to 1 kg. Corms are usually cylindrical and 30 cm long x 15 cm diameter, but they are highly variable in size, shape and colour. The leaves are 30-90 cm long and 20-60 cm broad, and are borne in crowns at the end of upright, thick, succulent, 0.9-2 m high petioles. The inflorescence is a large pale green spathe (Ecoport, 2010; Safo Kantaka, 2004).
There are hundreds of taro cultivars. Dasheen taros are wetland cultivars, mainly cultivated in Asia and the Pacific Islands. They have a single and large mealy corm (Ecoport, 2010). Eddoe taros are dryland cultivars, mainly cultivated in Africa and the Caribbean. They bear numerous smaller corms (cormels) around the central corm and have a firmer structure and a nutty taste (Ecoport, 2010; Onwueme et al., 1994).
Taro yields high quantities of energy and protein per ha (Göhl, 1982). It is mainly cultivated for home consumption in Asia, Africa, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. The soft white-fleshed taro corms, usually called taro roots, are highly valued as a staple food and are eaten boiled, fried, roasted, fermented or turned into flour ("fufu" in West Africa), bread and biscuits. Low-grade corms are also used for alcohol production. Taro petioles and leaves are used as vegetable (Ecoport, 2010; Safo Kantaka, 2004; Wilson et al., 1996).
Taro corms and peelings are fed to livestock, mainly cattle and pigs. In Vietnam, some taro varieties are used only for pigs (Ngo Huu Toan et al., 2010). In Hawaii, taro tops are used to make silage (Onwueme et al., 1994).