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Caribbean Market: Dasheen (Taro)

By Amber Charles-Alexis, MSPH, RDN

August 9, 2021

Background | Food uses | Nutrition | Benefits | Purchase | Storage

Dasheen is a very popular 'ground provision' (root tuber) here in the Caribbean.

So popular that there is an entire festival dedicated to its versatility and delicate taste.

The internationally-recognized blue food festival is held annually in October (pre-covid) on the beautiful isle of Tobago, and features culinary competitions and cultural shows.

PS: some varieties of dasheen turn blue when cooked, hence the name "blue food", or even "blue steel dasheen". The festival also features other tubers like sweet potato.


Alternate names: Kalo, Taro de chine, Chinese potato, Malanga (1).

Dasheen (Colocasia esculenta) is one of the oldest crops that was very popular in the 'Old World' (2, 3). It provided medicinal, nutritional and economic benefits (2).

Believed to have originated in Asia, the crop was also produced in Africa, Oceania and the Mediterranean (3).

Though the terms are used interchangeably, dasheen is a type of taro - a family of root vegetables that also includes the eddo.

Now grown throughout the West Indies and West and North Africa, the dasheen is adapted to grow in very diverse environments - tropical or temperate, full sun or deep shade, and even in flooded conditions (4).

Caution: dasheen has medium poison severity (calcium oxalate crystals) - all parts of the plant are poisonous unless thoroughly cooked, including the leaves (5).

You may experience a sensation of needles stuck in the throat (personally experienced this), pain and swelling of the mouth, tongue and lips, and vomiting or difficulty swallowing.

These are mild/temporary and not expected to warrant a doctor's visit.

Food uses