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  Persisting Taro, Bok
From: maurice major <mmajor at bishop.bishop.hawaii.org> on 1997.04.14 at 15:42:07(617)
Aloha Aroiders,

I just got back from a camping trip to Nualolo Kai, a remote valley on the
north shore of Kaua`i, Hawai`i. Connected to the large (ancient Hawaiian)
temple there is a taro pond, inland of the coastal sand dunes and at the
bottom of a large talus slope (funny valley, much wider than it is deep).
Rather than being stream-fed, this pond appears instead to lie on the fresh
water lens that occurs near coasts in these parts. I suspect that the water
percolates though the talus at the back of the valley, and evetually flows
out to the ocean. The pond is lower than the surrounding ground, but
cultural stonework is so pervasive here that I cannot say for sure whether
Hawaiians excavated down to the water, or built up around it. In any case,
the pond, which is about 10 by 15 meters in area, is surrounded by a 2 to 3
m high wall of stacked, waterworn rocks. All very picturesque after we
cleared the castor bean plants--for the first time in my archaeological
career, I felt like Indiana Jones.
But the point is that there is taro (Colocasia esculenta) still growing in
the pond. The water is more or less stagnant, yet there was very little corm
rot, probably because the water temp is quite cool, but possibly also
because of the variety. Nobody has cultivated the taro for the better part
of a century (at least until this week), yet it persists in a nice little
stand, competing somewhat with a sedge and ferns, but holding its own. I am
working on getting the variety identified, and will see if it is known for
its ability to grow in this environment. All I know is that the leaf was
good (hey, I am growing the corms, not eating them--yet).
There is also an account that is widespread among archaeologists here of a
terrace being excavated, then taro sprouting from the back dirt. The
deposits were allegedly over 200 years old, yet the taro grew. The
paleoethnobotanist cannot believe this, and suspects that cormlets from a
shallower (ergo younger) sediment were what sprouted.

Soooo, do any of you have experience with how long taro can survive
untended? I am talking about cultivated varieties here, and not some wild
cousin. How about subterranean dormancy?

PS. Regarding the bok ha thread, "bok" is used for many leafy vegetables and
cabbages by Asians here, which may be why people are talking about eating
the leaf of the mystery aroid. However, many south Pacific Polynesians have
enthusiastically started growing Xanthosoma species for the "food" (the
corm, Polynesians also eat the leaf, but the corm is called the food). In
many cultivars, the secondary corms are what is eatend, rather than the
central ("mother") corm. Tongans have told me that the cormlets have less
crystals than the mother, and this is why they eat it. One variety is
currently undergoing a rapid increase in popularity, and is being grown

From: "Julius Boos" <ju-bo at msn.com> on 1997.04.15 at 19:44:20(622)
Sent: Monday, April 14, 1997 6:42 PM
To: Julius Boos
From: "Richard Mansell (BIO)" <mansell at chuma.cas.usf.edu> on 1997.04.15 at 19:48:23(623)
Greetings, locally we have a grower that produces 10,000 Colocasia tubers
each season. The tubers are dug in November and left to dry for 2 months
before being boxed for shipment to the international bulb (tuber)
companies. This plant will live in the tuber state for months and if
large, I would guess a year or more. They dry very slowly and although
they tend to start new growth in warm weather, the development is slow. I
have some I got in November and they look no different now than when I
picked them from the field.


From: "Julius Boos" <ju-bo at msn.com> on 1997.04.18 at 21:19:55(643)
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 1997 10:48 PM
To: Julius Boos
Note: this is a very old post, so no reply function is available.