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Synonyms: tania, cocoyam, yautia (Latin America), okumo (Venezuela)

botanical name: Xanthosoma sagittifolium; family: Araceae


General remarks


Tannia is a plant with edible tubers, or corms, and leaves. It is closely related to taro. The products made from tannia are considered to be of better quality than those made from taro, however. A disadvantage of tannia is the formation of oxalate crystals that can be very unpleasant to eat and can cause a painful burning sensation on the skin when the plants are being harvested. The priority is therefore to cultivate oxalate-free strains.




Tannia is an herbaceous shrub that can grow to between 1.3 and 2.5 m. It develops arrow-shaped leaves of up to 1 m with long stems. Following a growing period of 240-420 days, the plant produces large white, pink or yellow corms on which 10- to 25-cm-long secondary tubers, or cormels, hang. There are very many cultivars that differ more or less from one another. They can vary in size, shape and colour of the leaves, as well as in size, colour and taste of the cormels.

The cormels of the tannia plant are ripe when the basal leaves have turned yellow. When the first cormels have been harvested, new ones can develop. For this reason the harvest can frequently last for over 500 days.


Origin, cultivation


Tannia originated in the Caribbean. There and in tropical South America it was cultivated long before the white conquistadors landed. Around 1840 the plant was taken to Africa and subsequently by the Spaniards and Portuguese to Europe. Finally, tannia also reached Asia. Today it is an important crop plant in the tropics, mainly in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Central and South America, West Africa, tropical Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia) and the islands of the South Pacific.


Use, storage


From the harvested corms only the secondary cormels are used as food. The mother corm is used as animal fodder. As the harvested cormels spoil very quickly, only as many are harvested as are actually needed. Tannia is closely related to taro and is prepared in much the same way. The cormels can be cooked, baked or deep-fried. Dried and peeled cormels are used to produce flour. The young leaves as well as the shoots can be eaten as a vegetable or used in soups and stews such as the Caribbean callaloo. To keep the cormels somewhat longer they should be stored at 7°C and at a relative humidity of 80%.





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