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taro-msg - 12/6/17


Use of the taro plant in period.


NOTE: See also the files: root-veg-msg, potatoes-msg, turnips-msg, armrd-turnps-msg, 23-Ger-Mushrm-art, mushrooms-msg, vegetables-msg, flour-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 16:35:48 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Posting Menu- Trimaris Spring Coronation


I'm curious, what basis did you use for choosing to fry the taro rather than

boil it?  Both the Vehling and the Flower and Rosenbaum translations of

Apicius state in footnotes that the taro was probably boiled.  In examining

the other recipes in Apicius that call for taro, the ones that connect it

with a specific cooking method call for it to be boiled.




<<< *Colocasia- a starchy root similar to potato fried in olive oil with a

sweet and spicy dipping sauce- Apicius


*Note on the colocasia- this was both surprisingly easy to find and

surprisingly delicious. It was sold at our local "hippy" grocery store

(Wards in Gainesville, FL) under its common name, Taro root. I found the

fact that this plant is an exotic invasive in Florida and I could dig it

out of the waterways as a public service amusing. The roots are hairy and

thin-skinned, the size and shape of small potatoes. I peeled them and

soaked them in cold water, as they oxidize immediately and their sap is

rather slimy. Then I cut them up in chunks, dried them well, and

deep-fried them until golden in olive oil. The fried chunks taste like

starchy potatoes. Delicious! My taste-testers were excited that I was

going to serve "period french fries" at feast.


Madhavi >>>



Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 20:47:18 -0500

From: <jimandandi at cox.net>

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Cc: maysun at maddcow.com

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Posting Menu- Trimaris Spring Coronation




I fully realize that frying the taro in olive oil was not the traditional Roman way of preparing them, at least not as reflected in this manuscript.


My "inspiration" for this dish is Recipe #322 in the Vehling translation (1936 edition)


In Colocasio


"For the colocasium use pepper, cumin, rue, honey, or broth, and a little oil, when done bind with roux Colocasium is the root of the Egyptian Bean which is used exclusively."


I chose to separate this recipe into two components: the taro root itself and the sauce, which I'm serving on the side for dipping.


What's the best way to get people to try a vegetable they've never heard of before? Either cook it with bacon or deep-fry it. I chose to deep fry it. This feast is already pushing the boundaries of "weird" for a Crown that is not very adventurous, and if deep-frying a vegetable instead of steaming it is going to get people to step outside of their comfort zones and something new with the flavors of the authentic dish? I'll choose the less authentic manner of preparation. Would I enter it in ArtSci? Nope.





Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 21:45:32 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Taro was Posting Menu- Trimaris Spring Coronation


<<< I fully realize that frying the taro in olive oil was not the traditional

Roman way of preparing them, at least not as reflected in this



My "inspiration" for this dish is Recipe #322 in the Vehling translation

(1936 edition)


Madhavi >>>


I thought that was the case.  I hope you thought to warn your testers that

your "period french fries" are a personal modification of the Apician recipe

and should not be confused with  a truly accurate recreation of a historic



Vehling 74 (F&R 68) is probably a more accurate method of preparation.

However, Davidson connects taro to the Arabic "qulqas" (with a dash above

the a).  It might be interesting to see if we can find a recipe similar to

yours in the Arabic texts.





Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2011 18:00:39 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Taro was:  looking for lentil recipe


<<< Wait. Does that mean that the colocasia in Apicius is or isn't Taro root?


There are numerous references to colocasia leaves and sometimes roots in

medieval Indian food descriptions, I thought this was taro, too.




Madhavi >>>


You have just stepped into one of the open questions of culinary history.


A number of sources state that C. esculenta was known to the Romans.  That

it was grown primarily in Egypt (due to the more tropical climate).  And

that it fell out of use in Europe as the Western Empire dissolved.  In my

view, Apicius is fairly good evidence of this theory.  Less satisfactory are

the conflicting descriptions found in various other authors.


Clifford Wright is the primary opposition to the Roman adoption theory.  He

makes a case for taro being introduced to the Mediterranean by the Arabs

about the 10th Century.  However, as much as I can determine, he avoids

Apicius in the presentation of his theory.  Wright is a good source, but

I've noted omissions is some of his presentations, so I usually approach his

work very carefully.


It is believed that taro originates in the area around the Bay of Bengal, so the Indian references to taro are probably just that.  From Eastern India, beginning at least 5,000 years ago, it went west to Africa, east to Southeast Asia, and out to the Pacific Islands.  There was a fair amount of Sea Trade from Egypt and the Levant through the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf into Southern Arabia, Africa and India during the 1st Milleneum BCE, so it is very possible that taro had reached Egypt before the Roman period. European access to taro would have been cut off no later than 642 CE when Egypt was taken in the Islamic expansion. Apicius is usually considered 1st Century CE, so taro would have been possible.


Prospero Alpini describes taro in his Plants of Egypt, but he's 15th Century and too late to settle this debate.


There is enough to make me think that taro was available and enough to make me question how common it might have been.




Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2017 00:41:58 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] New 544 CE Chinese Recipes


<<< "Taro seed"- what was the original term? Do you mean Colocasia esculenta?

Because I grow Colocasia esculenta, and it has no seeds. The parts you eat are the root (actually a corm) and the leaves. It's an elephant ear plant.



Trimaris >>>


Taro does have seeds which can be collected when the plant flowers.  There's

a hybridization project using seed to improve taro cultivars.  You can find

the manual here,

http://www.adap.hawaii.edu/adap/Publications/Ireta_pubs/taro_breeding.pdf .

While they're probably edible, I've never heard of them being used that way.


Indofevillea is a distinct genus of cucurbit.  You can find the botanical

description for I. khasiana here,

http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/PDF/PDF19/Indofevillea.pdf .  From what I

can find, most of the members of the genus are classed as rare or

endangered.  A new species I. jiroi is known from one plant found in






Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2017 17:51:37 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] taro, ginger beer etc.


Taro appears to originate in SE Asia and spread into India about 5000 BCE.

It spread from Asia to Polynesia and New Guinea and Africa in pre historic

times.  It is recorded as being cultivate in Egypt by Herodotus. and shows

up in later writings including Apicius.  DNA evidence suggests that the New

World taro is related to the Polynesian.  There's not a lot of information

about the cultivation and use of taro in the Eastern Mediterranean.


For a brief but informative article on taro try, Vaneker, Karin. "From Poi

to Fufu:  the Fermentation of Taro," Cured, Smoked and Fermented:

Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking, 2010, pp. 352-364;

Oxford Symposium, 2011.






Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2017 21:12:39 -0500

From: "Jim and Andi" <jimandandi at cox.net>

To: "'Cooks within the SCA'" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] taro, ginger beer etc.


Re: Taro


Just want to make sure that we refer to the botanical name Colocasia

esculenta, since in the tropics the common name "taro" can describe

different plants.





Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:32:08 -0800 (GMT-08:00)

From: <lilinah at earthlink.net>

To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] taro, ginger beer etc.


Stefan wrote:

<<< Where and when was taro used in medieval times? I have only a small file on taro in the Florilegium. >>>


Taro, colocasia esculenta, qulqas in Arabic, appears in nearly every medieval Arabic-language cookbook i have seen, including some not yet translated into English, from ibn Sayyar al-Qarraq's 10th c. collection of 9th and 10th c. recipes from Baghdad to 13th c. cookbooks from al-Andalus, to cookbooks from Mamluk Egypt (1270-1600).


Here's a recipe i recently translated from the circa 1226 Andalusi cookbook "Fadalat al-Khiwan fi Tayibat at-Ta'am wa al alwan" (Delicacies of the table and the best sorts of dishes) by Abu Ali ibn al-Hassan ibn Razin al-Tujibi.


You have some of his recipes in the Florilegium under the Spanish spelling "Tugibi", in which "fat" is translated as *lard*, something no Muslim would ever touch.


My translation is still in rough form. Once i get the whole book translated, i'll be smoothing out all the translations.


This recipe has no title. It's the only one in the 10th Chapter: Concerning Colocasia (taro root)


Wash sweet and tender colocasia to remove the dust. Remove the peel and cut into thin pieces. Boil for a short time with water and salt on the fire. Then wipe them dry and fry in oil or fat until they are golden-brown. Then sprinkle them with a little lime vinegar in a dish.


Chapter 10, Section 7, on the making of vinegars


1. Lime Vinegar

Wash ripe green limes of good quality, cut them in two and express the juice. Strain through a fine cloth and put them in crystal containers. Add the usual quantity of salt and place them in a location in which they are given sun. Then strain once or twice and cover them with oil.


Urtatim al-qurtubiyya


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org