Most fruits are sold individually; you can buy one papaya or one pumpkin or one mango. But taro is sold in bulk: $20 buys approximately 15 or 16 pieces of taro. I admit I dislike shopping at the open market. The vendors are either overly eager or overly snotty, each creating an air of distrust. My host family from the village occasionally shows up in Apia to hock taro, but mostly I’m forced to buy from strangers. I ran out of taro just before I left for Hawai’i, so yesterday morning after Blakey’s Rotaract event, I headed to the open market, made a snap decision, and bought $20 worth of taro.
When you buy taro, the vendor puts it in a plastic grocery bag. The taro has come straight out of the ground, and each piece is still covered in a thick layer of mud. There are still lots of living organisms within this mud, and the taro will surely go rotten if you leave it in the grocery bag for any extended amount of time.
With 16 pieces of muddy taro that will be rotten by tomorrow, what is one to do?
I find it best to freeze it. I wash each piece and peel it and stick it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it. This process looks good on paper, but takes forever in practice. I spent about 3 hours last night washing and peeling taro.
First the washing. The layer of mud is thick. It gets trapped in the small sub-roots (root hairs?), and those need to be peeled off as well. Even with a thorough wash, the taro is never “clean” the only effective way to get the mud off is by peeling.
Peeling raw taro is a difficult task that calls for strong tools. Among Samoans, the popular method involves slicing a tin can with a machete and using the sharp edge of the cross section to scrape off the taro’s skin. I, myself, prefer a vegetable peeler.
Even then, the skin is thick and difficult. I find it best to loosen the skin by boiling each piece of taro for a couple minutes.
So the process goes like this:
- Wash taro thoroughly.
- Boil taro for ~5 minutes.
- Peel taro.
- Bag taro and place in freezer.
The whole thing ends up being a lot of work. But when you’re finished, you have a freezer full of taro, and you won’t need to go through any of the process again until the next time you buy taro in bulk.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
The taro vendors at the open market.
Muddy taro in a plastic bag.
Peeled taro waiting for the freezer.
Dustin is here!