Food

Taioba Health Benefits

One of the typical greens of the mountainous and interior state of Minas Gerais is known in Brazil as  taioba .

Taioba leaves are consumed in Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, although it is a dietary habit not associated with habitual memories and has only recently become more popular in the country.

While it’s unlikely to be available at a supermarket, it’s quite possible that you’ll find a bunch of leaves to buy for a few dollars at a local grocery store or grocery store.

Taioba is a semi-domesticated, semi-wild plant, sometimes being planted and often growing naturally. It is often seen in backyards and on the edges of cultivated fields. While the smaller, dark-spotted leaves are the best to eat, there are leaves that can grow to an impressive size.

Taioba should not be consumed raw, and great care is taken to identify it correctly. Many people in the interior of Rio de Janeiro have a story about a cousin or an aunt who died after eating taioba wild because he didn’t recognize her properly.

It is used in many different ways, just like spinach, although taioba should never be processed. The taioba plant (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) is commonly called the “elephant ear”. In English it is also sometimes known as tannia.

In Spanish it is titled yautia; in Puerto Rico it is tiquizque and still called macal in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In Ghana and South Africa, it is called  nkontomire , among other names. In the kitchens of these countries, the leaves of the plant are rarely used. In these cultures, taioba is mainly cultivated for its edible tubers.

In Brazil, it is the large green leaves that are consumed, making it impossible to find any reference to the use of the taioba tuber in Brazilian cuisine. Often, its leaves are simply sautéed with garlic and served as an accompaniment to a meal, including meat, beans and rice.

The large leaves of the plant have large veins, most recipes require the stems and veins to be removed, leaving the leafy green part to be used in cooking.

Since these leafy vegetables can still be quite large, the leaves are usually crushed or cut into thin strips before being cooked, as is also done in Minas Gerais with cabbage.

TAIOBA PROPERTIES

Taioba is the scientific name of the tannia leaf ( 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 Araceae family. Both crops are cultivated for their corms and root that are found in most 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  cultivated in Africa than in any other continent.

Taioba is a common dish for any meal. Of a velvety green, it has a smooth body and texture.

The plant is intensively cultivated and consumed in countries in Central America, Africa and Asia. In Brazil, the highest consumption occurs precisely in the states of Bahia, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo. Taioba is an excellent source of Fe, P, Ca, K and Mn minerals compared to known sources of these elements.

The leaves are sold in packages and must be bright dark green in color, being dilated, with no signs of injury and no dark or yellowish areas. Younger, smaller leaves are softer and require less cooking time.

Each 100g of taioba contains:

  • Energy (Kcal) – 34
  • Carbohydrate – 5.4g
  • Protein – 2.9g
  • Lipids – 0.9g
  • Fibers – 4.5g
  • Calcium – 142mg
  • Magnesium – 38mg
  • Phosphorus – 53mg
  • Iron – 1.9mg
  • Sodium – 1mg
  • Potassium – 290mg
  • Zinc – 0.6mg
  • Vitamin B2 – 0.10mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 0.10mg
  • Vitamin C – 17.9mg

TAIOBA BENEFITS

  • Good for keeping your eyes healthy.
  • Significantly helps the immune system and collagen production.
  • Contributes to nutrient metabolism.
  • Good for red blood cells and oxygen transport.
  • Contributes to the maintenance of healthy bones.
  • Significant contribution to a healthy heart and brain.
  • Antioxidant activity, protecting cells and organs.
  • Assists in muscle function.
  • It controls bowel functions and reduces the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Alongside the kale and the okra, this almost wild leaf was present daily on the tables of the colonial period and guaranteed the nutrition of a good part of the colonists. However, it is currently difficult to find taioba in diets or included in recipes.

The plant is mainly indicated for children, athletes and the elderly due to its great detention of nutrients and vitamin A.

It has depurative, emollient and healing properties, removing the healing of ulcers and even soothing cases of leprosy.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TAIOBA AND YAM

Taioba leaves are edible and tasty, but they look a lot like yams, which cannot be eaten.

From yams, only potatoes are eaten, which have many nutrients. Thus, what differentiates them is the position of the stalk on the leaf. In taioba, the tear in the leaf goes to the stem.

The full use of taioba is also another favorable point. The planting of taioba and yam are the same, taking place in the same hot and humid climate conditions with full sun.

HOW TO GROW TAIOBA

It is durable, produces viable sheets yearly. In fact, spinach is used as a height substitute when taioba is not available. The leaves must be cooked to eliminate calcium oxalate, a chemical that forms crystals in the kidneys. Similar to Brazilians, Africans prefer to eat fresh taioba as opposed to pickled.

Taioba is sensitive to cold, so seedlings are not placed in the field while there is danger of frost. Taioba can tolerate shade in the tropics, but should be grown in full sun for maximum yield.

The plant develops quickly in hot and humid environments, such as those in a tropical area, with temperatures ranging from 25 to 35°C. The land must be well drained and the planting site must have excellent reception of natural light.

It should be planted in dominant sun or half shade, the ground needs to be light and fertile, always moist and fortified with fertilizer. It adapts very well to lakes and streams, the plant does not withstand the cold, but can be planted indoors and brightly in houses and greenhouses. It propagates through bushes and roots.

The most common way to propagate this growing crop around the world is by using parts of the central horn with three or four buds.

HARVESTING AND STORAGE

Once harvested, the leaves must always be wet so they don’t wither quickly. Therefore, the ideal is to sell or consume them on the same day you picked them.

The good quality of taioba can be maintained for up to 10 days when stored at 10°C in a polyethylene bag. Sheets not stored in plastic at room temperature will lose quality in 3 days, mainly due to loss of water.

The harvest should always be in the shade, so the best time to happen is in the morning. Until marketing, the leaves must be moist and in a cool and airy place.

In order not to run the risk of ingesting taioba wild, it is necessary to:

  • Know the origin of the plant or seedling;
  • Note whether the leaf has a purple spot where the petiole joins the leaf;
  • Check if the stalks are dark and if the upper part of the leaf, where it forms the heart, ends before starting the stalk;

The edible has a lighter green tone on the stalk, leaves, ribs and the lobes unite where the stalk starts. And even if this happens in some varieties of taioba wild, it is possible to distinguish them, as these will be purple taioba with intense stems in this color.

In high summer, the taioba plant’s large leaves are the size of an elephant’s ears, and just one or two leaves can provide a quick and tasty dish or ingredient to use in other dishes.

Its cooking is quick, less than 5 minutes. Traditionally, a taioba stir fry starts with a little garlic and oil, and ends with a quick splash of water to boil.

HOW TO PREPARE TAIOBA

To separate the leaf and stem when cooking, you will need to remove the meat from the stem and ribs. This is simple, just use your fingertips to pull each fleshy section of leaf away from the main stem and between the secondary ribs. You’ll have a pile of taioba to cook and a skeleton of funny looking leaves to recycle.

Instructions: 

  1. Wash and prepare the vegetables.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add garlic and onions and saute for 1 minute.
  4. Add taioba and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. (Taioba is very delicate to cook. You start with 2 cups fresh, and finish with  1 / 2  cup cooked.)
  5. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Tips: 

  • Combine chopped taioba with whole wheat bread cubes, raw eggs and your favorite low-fat cheese to create a tasty chicken filling;
  • Serve cold taioba mixed with gherkin salad;
  • Use taioba as an excellent tasting pizza topping.

Contraindications:

Consuming raw taioba is not recommended under any circumstances. If this occurs, there may be a burning sensation, swelling in the lips, mouth, in addition to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, corneal problems, difficulty in swallowing and suffocation. Its consumption is also not indicated for individuals with gout, arthritis or kidney stones.

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Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

Robert Asprin

Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

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