Nov 29


Yesterday I decided to set you guys a little test on the Eat Rio Facebook page. I wanted to know if anyone was familiar with these rather attractive leaves.


OK, sorry if I sound like a weirdo food nerd here, but they’re rather nice looking leaves aren’t they?


I’m not going to try and make out I’m some expert here. The fact is that I only discovered these leaves a few weeks ago and was wondering if everyone else knew about them but had been keeping quiet!

I was browsing Glória street market when I noticed this rather attractive bunch of leaves and asked the guy what they were called. He said something that sounded to me like ‘Tai-OPP-ah’. “Hmmm, interesting…” I thought. “I will remember to look this up when I get home”. In fact I forgot the name almost immediately and had to return about 3 times to the (thankfully) patient stall holder. When I got home and Googled it, I found that the proper name is Taioba.

The common name in English for these big leaves is the rather exciting Arrowleaf Elephant Ear (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) but I think we should stick with the Brazilian name seeing as they are native to South America.

The leaves are actually rather versatile. The guy selling them at the market suggested cooking them like spinach or couve – chop the leaves and then plunge them briefly into salted boiling water; drain and then fry them quickly with plenty of garlic, butter, salt and pepper. You can also eat the stalks which should be peeled and then cooked as above, leaving them in the water for a little longer to soften them up (a couple of minutes should do it).

taioba com alho e bacon

Hmmm, adding bacon makes most things better… recipe here!


What doesn’t seem to be so well known is that these plants also have an edible root which looks very similar to our old friend inhame (taro – Colocasia esculenta).


If I didn’t know better I would say this was inhame, but it is actually the root of taioba! Although one is from South America and the other from Asia, they look almost identical!


The leaves look quite similar too.


That is inhame on the left, taioba on the right.


The leaves can grow very large indeed (hence the ‘Elephant Ear’ nickname). Because of this they have more uses, such as this rather fun looking recipe I found at Zoom’s Edible Plants:


Taioba leaves stuffed with spiced rice served with bechamel sauce. Maybe you could even use these instead of vine leaves to make dolmades? image source


When I saw the common name of Elephant Ear, a bell rang in my memory. Where had I heard that name before? Turns out it was earlier this year in April when I was walking down the street in Glória and saw a spectacular leaf growing in someone’s garden. I took a photo and then a reader (thanks Susan Loveland!) identified it for me – a ‘Caldium’, AKA Elephant Ear!


Don’t go eating these ones! Any Elephant Ears with colour in their veins or on the stalks are likely to be quite poisonous!


So, pick some up (the edible versions!) at a market near you this weekend and let me know how things go!


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  1. Nicolás

    We also have those kind of plants and I knew them by the name “Oreja de elefante” too (which is spanish for elephant ear), although I can’t remember seeing them coming in colours, and I didn’t know they were edible either.. I thought they were just ornamental.

    1. tomlemes

      Hey Nicolás – it’s a good name isn’t it? :D It seems like if you’re ever lost in the forests of South America (you never know! ;) ), these things (the leaves and the roots) could save your life! Just don’t eat the ornamental ones! Ha ha!

  2. carlos eduardo

    That picture of the leaves filled with rice is magazine quality. Bread has always been one of my terrible weaknesses. Even as a kid, to my father’s great annoyance, I would regularly slam down half a loaf or more of just plain bread, piece by piece. And it doesn’t help that an endless variety of different types of sandwiches can be made with 2 slices of bread. Anyway, the large variety of edible leaves here in Brazil has helped me get my bread obsession into remission. Just this morning for breakfast I had some spicy sliced up boiled egg rolled up in some kind of green leaf I bought at a street feira. My improvisation on an egg roll you might say. And my increasingly old body appreciates the fewer calories and carbs and various other things that come in industrially produced foods like bread. Here’s a tip for anyone who wants to easily (although not quickly) and healthily lose weight: Replace half or more of the processed food you currently consume with a simple food. Eat apple sauce, replace it with the real apple. Eat a lot of bread, replace it with leaves. You get the drift……

    1. tomlemes

      Hey Carlos – yeah, that’s a nice photo isn’t it (sadly not mine). And I like your tips – something I could definitely keep in mind! ;)

  3. Marina

    I grew up eating leaves like taioba, couve, ora pro nobis (delicious!), serralha, etc. i cook them the same way i cook couve, with garlic, onions, cebolinha e salsinha (dont know what they`re called in english – can you teach me?). No bacon here, because i`m a vegetarian.

    1. tomlemes

      Hi Marina! We call Cebolinha “chives” and Salsinha is “parsley” – a great combination, especially with lots of garlic! :)

      I had never heard of Ora Pro Nobis – is this specific to Minas?

  4. Ana Fonseca

    Taioba tea: hot water and some pieces of taioba. Wait 4 – 5 minutes. Drink it and feel happy again. A classic recipe for those suffering from the liver.

    1. tomlemes

      Brilliant Ana! Thanks for that – I hadn’t heard of that usage. And my liver does ask me to be nice to it once in a while! ;)

  5. The Gritty Poet

    Don’t forget what happened last time EatRio kept readers waiting so long for the next post.

    1. tomlemes

      Ha ha! It’s been a tough week… :-/ But there is a post almost done!

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