Vegetable of the month: Taro root

Brown hairy looking tuberous root vegetable, locally known as “Jabérée” is known as the yummy sister of the potato. Taro root originates from Southern India and Southeast Asia but has been widely spread around the world in the tropical and subtropical regions. It is said to be one of the oldest cultivated plants and is also one of the most widely grown species in the group of tropical perennial plants.

Taro root has many different names since it is known in many regions of the world. The largest producer is Nigeria, followed by China and Cameroon. It is a staple food in many African, Oceanic and South Asian cultures, but not in The Gambia, where is considered more as an occasional snack, most popular among Fulas. Taro root is mostly imported from Guinea or Senegal.

“Jabérée” is the local name used to refer to an edible tuber that comes from a certain plant that grows in wetlands called the “faros”. It has brown outer skin. Its inner part is white and firm.  It belongs to the group of plants, which are called “elephant ears” due to the shape of the aboveground part of the plant which is arrow-shaped and resembles ears of an elephant. There are many varieties of the taro, for example, giant taro, swamp taro and arrowleaf elephant’s ear. It belongs to the same plant family as the potato, jam and sweet potato.

The Jabérée is not used as a staple food in The Gambia. It’s more of a street food which is sold already boiled and prepared to eat on sides of the streets. The vendors sell the Jabérée with “Netetou” (Locust bean) which is dried and ponded. Dry pepper is added to it to make it tasty. Some will make a Tamarind sauce locally call “Dahaar” to go with it. The tamarind sauce is prepared with a little amount of water, hot pepper, lemon and a little salt. This comes as the sauce to the Jabérée.

Locals love the Jabérée because it is appetizing and very simple to prepare. All you do is wash the Jabérée, peel it, put it in a cooking pot, add water and boil for half an hour. Then make the side sauce to go with.

Jabérée is seen around February till April when it begins to dwindle. It has a short season in the Gambia since it is not commercially cultivated. But it is still cultivated by some subsistent farmers for consumption at home.

If you want to try the Jabérée, you can see it at many compound gates, outside small shops or on the streets and Serekunda market. It cost from D5 to D10 for one. If you are looking to prepare it yourself, you can buy the raw one at Serekunda market “sandika” for D100 per kilo.

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