Taioba

Xanthosoma sagittifolium
Taioba grown on a commercial farm on Martha's Vineyard in 2008
Taioba grown on a commercial farm on Martha's Vineyard in 2008 (Photo by Frank Mangan)

Introduction

Taioba is the leaf of tannia (Xanthosoma sagittifolium). This plant is originally from the Amazon region and is very similar in growth and appearance to taro (Colocasia esculenta) which is from Southeast Asia. The corms of this tropical plant belong to the family Aracea. Both crops are grown for their root-like corms and cormels that are staples in most of the tropics and subtropics. They have many names, including malanga, yautia, ocumo criollo and cocoyam. With the colonization of the Americas after Columbus, there is more Xanthosoma sagittifolium grown in Africa than any other conitinent. 

Taioba grows as a weed in Brazil and as a perennial it produces viable leaves yearly (Figure 1).

Taioba is used as a leafy green similar to spinach. In fact, spinach is used as a substitute when taioba is not available. The leaves must be cooked in order to eliminate calcium oxalate, an irritant (Figure 2).

Taioba is popular in several sates in Southeastern Brazil and it is unknown in other parts of that country. It is also a staple in parts of Africa, especially in Ghana where it is called nkontomire, among other names (Figure 3). Similar to Brazilians, Africans perfer to eat fresh taioba as opposed to canned ( (Figure 4).

Figure 1. Taioba growing at Fazenda Esperança in the town of Simonésia, Minas Gerais Brazil. Photo by Celina Fernades)
Figure 2. Taioba prepared at a Brazilian restaurant in Boston, Mass. in 2006. (Photo by Raquel Uchôa de Mendonça)
Figure 3. Canned nkontomire for sales at an African market in Worcester in 2006. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 4. kontomire, grown at the UMass Research Farm, for sale at an African market in Worcester in 2006. (Photo by Frank Mangan)

Production

Research began on growing taioba at the University of Massachusetts in 2006. Taioba corms were brought to Massachusetts from Minas Gerias Brazil with a permit from the USDA Animal Health Inspection Service

The corms were forced in peat pots at UMass and a commercial farm over the years (Figure 5) (Figure 6) . Taioba is frost sensitive, so the transplants are not put into the field until after a danger of frost. We established the row spacing of one foot in the row on black plastic at six feet on center (Figure 7). Taioba can tolerate shade in the tropics, but it should be grown in full sun in order to get maximum yield in the Northeastern US. (Figure 8)

Figure 5. Taioba corms being forced for transplants for the field in 2008. (Photo by Renato Mateus)
Figure 6. Taioba transplants ready for the field in 2008. (Photo by Renato Mateus)
Figure 7. Taioba being transplanted at the UMass Research Farm in 2008. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Figure 8. A field of taioba at the UMass Research Farm in 2011. Photo by Frank Mangan)

Post-Harvest and Packing

Based on research at the University of Massachusetts, good quality of taioba can be maintained for up to 10 days when kept at 50° F in a polyethylene bag. Taioba leaves not stored in plastic at room temperature will loose quality in 3 days, mainly due to the loss of water.

Seed Sources

The most common way to propagate this crop in the developing world is by using parts of the central corm with three or four buds.

Found in:

Ghana
Nkontomire