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Leilehua preparing to bake kalo during a class on Hawaiian food.


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Kalo - Taro Colocasia esculenta - An old-world tropical aroid cultivated since ancient times for food and propagated. Now found in all inhabited tropical regions. Kalo is a traditional Hawaiian staple since ancient times, and was developed by the Hawaiian farmers into more than 300 forms able to grow in the various climate and soil conditions found in the Hawaiian islands.  All parts of the plant are eaten. The corm is used to make the Hawaiian staple, poi.





























1) kalo - corm of first taro growing from huli. 2nd corm is termed `oha or mu`u. Third generation is called `a`ae or `ae. Fourth generation is `onihinihi. Fifth is kokole. Sixth pahupahu.

2) huli - seed stalk for planting

3) a`a - rootlets

4) huluhulu - non-rootlet hairs on corm

5) `ili kalo - skin of corm.

6) `ili kana - cortex

7) i`o kalo - flesh of corm
    7a) iho kalo / poi he - core of corm used to make poi for chiefs
    7b) i`o kalo / poi `ili - outer portion of corm used to make regular poi

8) kohina - cutting line. Where the corm is removed from the stalk to create the huli

9) kumu ha - petiole base

10) ha - petiole

11) `ili ha - epidermis of petiole

12) mawae - petiole sheath

13) lihi mawae - margin of petiole sheath

17) piko - junction of petiole and blade

18) lau - leaf

19) ka`e lau - edge of leaf blade

20) mahae - basal indentation

22) a`a lau / iwi - leaf midrib and veins

23) ao lu`au / lu`au / mohala - young furled leaf blade

24) pua - inflorescence or blossom

25) iho / `ikoi pua - spadix

Left - Kalo and uala growing in a backyard patch in Hilo town.



In my family, taro was generally boiled to at least partially cook before being made into a specific dish. One of our favorite ways to serve taro (other than as poi) was fried. My Nana always wet her knife before slicing kalo to help it slip through the corm rather than crumble it.

Fried Taro


Boil the kalo until you can pierce it with a fork. Peel off the `ili (skin), being careful to keep the flesh clean. Using a sharp knife which has been wetted, slice the corm into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Sprinkle with ground black pepper and a little salt. Fry in butter until a crispy shell forms on the outside, and the inside is tender.

Taro Croquettes

Croquettes are tasty little fried cakes which can be made of just about anything. The outside should be delicate and crispy, while the inside is smooth and creamy. During WWII, Hawai`i housewives, already used to frugality in the kitchen, adapted croquette recipes to local leftovers. Among the new treats was taro croquettes.

1 small onion
2 cups leftover cooked taro, mashed fine
1 egg
2 tablespoons flour
Parsley or other favored herbs, minced

Mince the onion and saute in the the butter. Let cool and add to the taro, egg, flour, and herbs. Mix thoroughly. Form mix into small patties or rounds and fry in 3" hot oil until golden. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Drain. Serve hot

Taro Latkes

A local take-off on a classic Yiddish dish.

2 cups cooked kalo, grated
1 onion, grated
1 cup flour
2 eggs
salt to taste
olive oil

Boil kalo until you can pierce it with a fork. Peel off the skin, being careful to keep the flesh clean. Grate on the coarse side of a standard hand grater. Grate the onion. Mix together with the flour, eggs, and enough milk to make a batter which will hold together nicely. Fry in a bit of olive oil until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.


This Samoan dish is popular with all ethnic groups throughout the islands.

20 (or so) lu`au (young taro leaves)
2 cups coconut cream
1 lemon, juiced
2 onions, minced
salt to taste

Wash the leaves thoroughly and set aside. Mix together the coconut cream, lemon juice, and minced onions. Add salt to taste. Make a bowl of 3-5 small leaves and fill with about 1/2 cup of the coconut mix. Fold the lu`au around the mix so that it makes a packet. Wrap in aluminum foil so that it will not spill. Place the packets in a baking dish lined with ti leaves or foil (to aid in washing up!) and bake at 300 degrees F for 2 hours or so, until there is no itchiness left in the lu`au. Let cool a bit, remove foil and serve.

Poi Cocktail

A refreshing drink which is also soothing when you are ill. I grew up considering a poi cocktail as good as a milkshake. Now I think they are better! My grandmother made it for me when I was a little girl and had my tonsils removed.

1 cup milk
1/4 cup poi, or to taste
sugar to taste
cinnamon, nutmeg to taste

Simply beat the mix with a fork and serve!

Taro Chips

Taro chips have become very popular. And expensive! Here is once recipe for them.

Boil whole unpeeled taro till cooked through. Chill. Then slice as thin as possible. Fry in hot oil until crisp (about 10 minutes). Use frying pan or deep fryer. Drain on cake rack, absorbent paper or newspaper, and sprinkle with salt or garlic salt.



Have questions about Hawaiian foods? Ask them here:
Kau Kau Kitchen Forum 

More on Kalo (Taro)

Background information on taro, and a mo`olelo

Good information on canoe plants

Nice blog with a lot of information on kalo cultivation

Cultivating Kalo

Wikipedia on Kalo

Satoimo - Japanese Taro

How to build an Imu
Click for Maui Community College's illustrated step-by-step guide to using an imu for your kalua pig.