Cocoyam(Taro) is a common name for the corms and tubers of several plants in the family Araceae. It is a perennial, tropical plant primarily grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, and as a leaf vegetable and is considered a staple in African, Oceanic and Asian cultures. It is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants. Its corms are an important source of starch. Cocoyam can be grown in paddy fields where water is abundant or in upland situations where watering is supplied by rainfall or by supplemental irrigation.
There are three edible cocoyam species in Cameroon; macabo ,ibo and country(common names). The macabo may be white or red.
- It is often grown as an ornamental plant
- It is also consumed as food in many parts of Africa
Taro is one of the few crops (along with rice) that can be grown under flooded condition. Cocoyam is very rich in vitamin B6 and magnesium.
The leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C and contain more protein than the corms.
Ethnic groups in Cameroon prepare, process and consume cocoyam in many different ways. Some of which are:
- The pericarp of the corm may be peeled before cooking or cooked and peeled later to eat with any vegetable.
- Ekwang; a delicacy obtained by wrapping grated peeled corm with younger cococyam leaves plus some palm oil, fish, shrimp, salt, maggi and pepper.
- Koki beans; prepared by mixing ground black eyed beans, palm oil, young cocoyam leaves, some salt and pepper and wrapping in plantain leaves.
- Achu; prepared by pounding cocoyam mixed with banana and eating with a yellow or black soup known as achu soup.
- Koki corn; prepared by mixing ground fresh corn with palm oil, young cocoyam leaves plus some salt and pepper and wrapping in plantain leaves.
- Akwa; which is prepared by pounding peeled boiled cocoyam and eating with egusi or any vegetable sauce.
- Kwacoco; prepared by grating cocoyam, add some salt and wrapping in plantain leaves. It can be also called kwacoco bible, when palm oil, fish , shrimps, salt and pepper are added to the ground cocoyam and tied in plantain leaves and boiled.
All parts of the raw cocoyam plant contain a toxic compound, calcium oxalate, which must be destroyed by cooking before consumption. These crystals could be extremely irritating to the throat and mouth lining, causing burning and stinging sensation.
Cocoyam’s richness in vitamin B6 and magnesium makes it good for controlling high blood pressure and protect the heart.
It is very rich in dietary fibre too, and good for proper glucose metabolism.
Popular amongst diabetics in Africa, may be due to its content of loose carbohydrate in form of starch rather than sugar.
The starch is easily digestible and grains are fine and small and often used for baby food.