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.
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).
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).
The leaves look quite similar too.
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:
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!
So, pick some up (the edible versions!) at a market near you this weekend and let me know how things go!