Colocasia esculenta is a tropical plant, which is grown primarily for its edible corms. Considered as the most widely cultivated species of several plants in the acraea family, the corms and leaves of this vegetable can be consumed.
This plant originally comes from the tropical and subtropical regions of South-East Asia, especially the Bengal region.
Generally, this plant and its root are called taro, but it has different names in different countries: Malanga in Spain, inhame in Portuguese, cocoyam in Ghana, Nigeria and the English part of Cameroon and taro in the French part of Cameroon. It can be grown in paddy fields where water is supplied by rainfall or supplemental irrigation. With around 3.3 million metric ton per year, Nigeria is the largest producer of taro in the world.
The taro is often boiled, fried, roasted or mashed, and eaten with a sauce called yellow or green sauce. To these sauces you can add meat or fish, and the dish is called achu. This food is eaten in the western part of Cameroon because the soil and the weather are favourable for growing taro.
In typical traditional settings, achu is served on plantain leaves and eaten with fingers, which symbolizes unity. Achu is not an everyday dish as it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare it. It is mostly eaten on special occasions, like traditional festivals, as well as funerals, and birth celebrations.
Eating achu from a leaf is becoming less common and people are replacing it with a plate. A tradition that will not change very soon is, however, that achu is eaten with hands instead of a spoon.
Taro is a versatile and delicious vegetable but if you touch the uncooked plant, it can cause itchy skin. So, in Camaroon you call someone who is always nice and easy to manipulate a sweet potato and someone who is not easily fooled a taro.
Taro. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taro. Published July 29, 2019. Accessed August 5, 2019.
Cocoyam. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoyam. Published May 16, 2019. Accessed August 5, 2019.
Written by Arline Sonita TCHAGNANG – Study visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament, Luxembourg. She is currently is a student in the trilingual Master in Learning and Communication In Multilingual and Multicultural Context.