What is malanga root?

All you need to know about malanga

The nutrients in malanga may benefit the following aspects of a person’s health.

Cholesterol

People usually eat the tuber of the malanga plant. A cup of boiled malanga can provide over 7 grams (g) of fiber, depending on the type of malanga.

Also, the authors of a 2013 rodent study found that the leaves of taioba, which is one type of malanga, are rich in fiber.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 suggest that adults consume around 28–33.6 g of fiber each day, depending on their age and sex.

Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that a high fiber diet can improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the 2013 study mentioned above, rats consumed different types of high fat diet. Those that ate the malanga leaf alongside fatty foods had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol than the others. This suggests that the fiber contained within malanga can help manage cholesterol levels.

Why do we need dietary fiber? Learn more here.

Weight and diabetes

Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and many other conditions.

However, dietary fiber may play a role in managing both weight and type 2 diabetes.

In the 2013 rodent study, the rats that consumed malanga with their high fat diet gained less weight than those that did not. This may be due to the fiber content.

A 2012 review of studies also found that a high fiber diet may help prevent weight gain. Adding malanga to the diet is one way to increase fiber intake.

Blood pressure

In addition to fiber, a cup of cooked malanga provides 683 milligrams (mg) of potassium.

Some studies have found a link between dietary potassium intake and blood pressure. In 2013, for example, researchers found that people with a higher potassium intake appeared to have a significantly lower risk of high blood pressure.

This is important because high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Potassium relaxes blood vessels, which reduces the workload of the heart to pump blood through the body.

Why is potassium important? Learn more here.

Antioxidants for overall health

Malanga contains vitamins C and A, which are both antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for helping the body eliminate free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that occur in the body as a result of internal metabolic processes and outside influences, such as smoking and pollution.

If too many free radicals build up in the body, oxidative stress can result. This can lead to cell damage and a range of health concerns.

Antioxidants occur mainly in plant based foods. They appear to help the body eliminate free radicals.

In this way, they can reduce the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, vision loss, and cardiovascular problems.

Learn more about the benefits and sources of antioxidants here.

Malanga is a starchy root vegetable that looks like a yam.

The plant is a tropical rain forest plant, but it doesn’t need water all the time, and grows fine in full sunlight. The temperature, though, must remain above 68 F (20°C.) Above ground, the plant can grow 5 feet (1.5 metres) tall or more. It has huge green leaves, about 2 feet (60 cm) long and the same wide. When the foliage above ground starts to dry out and die back, it is a sign that it’s time to harvest the tubers.

The oval-shaped tuber is about the size of a potato, though the variety called Cocoa Malanga is about the size of a coconut. A Malanga’s weight averages 1/2 to 2 pounds (225 to 900g.) The skin is lumpy and hairy with white and brown stripes. Inside, before cooking, the flesh is crisp, ranging in colour from cream to pinkish.

There are in general two main types of Malanga: Malanga amarillo (Colocasia esculenta) which grows in damp, soggy ground, and Malanga blanca (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), which grows on normal land.

Malanga is used in Central America and Caribbean cooking. Many people confuse it with Taro, which is a close relative.

When buying Malanga, choose firm, crack-free ones.

Cooking Tips

Malanga can be peeled, boiled and eaten like potatoes, even mashed with milk and butter. Deep fried, it makes very good chips. If boiled in soups, it will help thicken the broth.

Nutrition

Reasonable source of riboflavin and thiamine.

Nutrition Facts

Per 1/2 cup, cooked, on its own

Amount
Calories 135

Storage Hints

Do not store in refrigerator or below 45 F (7 C). Use within 7 days.

History Notes

The Carib Indians called it “taia” (hence the name for it today in the Dominican Republic, Tannia), and would cook the young leaves like spinach.

What the Heck Is Malanga Coco?

Description: Also known as yautia, big taro root, cocoyam, Japanese potato, tannia, and eddo, malanga coco is a large, dense root vegetable in the same family as taro root. The mottled exterior is brown to reddish, while inside the flesh can be cream, pale yellow, or grayish purple.

Cuisine Connection: Similar to how the potato is used in temperate climates, malanga coco is most popular in Caribbean countries (e.g., Cuba and Puerto Rico) and can be mashed, boiled, sautéed, and, most sinister, deep-fried as fritters and chips.

Flavor Profile: Similar to a potato in texture, malanga has a woodsy taste with a hint of black walnut. It is a natural thickener, and makes stews and soups creamy. Don’t eat it raw as it can irritate the throat.

The Good, the Bad, and the Malanga: Since it’s perhaps the most hypoallergenic food in the world, highly allergic people will do well eating malanga and items made with malanga flour. Hopefully, these same allergic people know to stay away from AYCE buffets and hit the treadmill once in a while—malanga is also quite caloric, containing 135 calories per one-half cup, cooked.

Taro–also called Dasheen–is a perennial tropical or subtropical plant commonly grown for its starchy but sweet flavored tuber. Taro is always served cooked, not raw. The taro tuber is cooked like a potato, has a doughy texture, and can be used to make flour. Young taro leaves and stems can be eaten after boiling twice to remove the acrid flavor. Cook taro leaves like spinach. A paste called poi is made from the taro root.

Description. Taro is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows from 3 to 6 feet tall. Its leaves are light green, elongated, and heart-shaped similar to an elephant’s ear. Tubers are spherical and about the size of a tennis ball often covered with brownish skin and hairs; the flesh is pinkish purple, beige or white. Each plant grows one large tuber often surrounded by several smaller tubers. Taro requires seven months of hot weather to mature.

Yield. Grow 10 to 15 taro plants for each person in the household depending upon usage.

Taro is a tropical or subtropical plant that requires very warm temperatures and consistent moisture to thrive.

Planting Taro

Taro is a tropical or subtropical plant that requires very warm temperatures–77° to 95°F (25-35°C)–and consistent moisture to thrive. Taro grows best in USDA zones 9-11. Taro can be grown for its tubers only where summers are long–at least 200 frost-free, warm days. Taro can be grown for its leaves in a greenhouse.

Site. Taro corms can be planted in dry or wet settings. Taro requires rich, moist, well-drained soil to moisture-retentive soil. In Asia taro is often planted in wet paddies. In dry setting, taro corms are planted in furrows or trenches about 6 inches (15cm) deep and covered by 2 to 3 inches (5-8cm) of soil. Taro grown for its leaves can be grown in temperatures as low as 59°F, outdoors or in a greenhouse. Taro grows best in a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

Planting time. Plant taro when the weather and soil have warmed in spring. Taro requires at least 200 frost-free days to reach maturity.

Planting and spacing. Taro is grown from small sections of tuber, small tubers, or suckers. Plant taro in furrows 6 inches (15cm) deep and cover corms with 2 to 3 inches of soil; space plants 15 to 24 inches apart in rows about 40 inches apart (or space plants equidistant 2 to 3 feet apart). Plants grow to about 36 inches tall and about 20 inches across.

Companion planting. A second crop of taro can be planted between taro rows about 12 weeks before the main crop is harvested.

Container growing. Taro can be grown in a container in a greenhouse or warm cellar to force shoots or stems for winter use. Force tubers in a warm bed of sand. Cut and use shoots when they reach about 6 inches tall; shoots can be blanched by placing a heavy burlap tent over the shoots.

Caring for Taro

Water and feeding. Keep taro plants well watered; the soil should be consistently moist. Water taro often in dry weather. Feed taro with rich organic fertilizer, compost, or compost tea. Taro prefers a high-potassium fertilizer.

Care. Keep taro planting beds weed-free. Keep the planting bed moist. In early spring, plant pre-sprouted tubers with protection using a plastic tunnel or cloche. Plants grown in a greenhouse should be misted often.

Pests. Aphids and Red spider mites may attack taro grown indoors.

Diseases. Taro leaf blight will cause circular water-soaked spots on leaves. Downy mildew may attack taro.

Fresh taro root sliced and cubed. Taro is always served cooked, not raw.

Harvesting and Storing Taro

Harvest. Taro tubers are harvested about 200 days after planting when leaves turn yellow and start to die. Lift taro roots like sweet potatoes before the first frost in autumn. Taro leaves can be picked as soon as the first leaf has opened; harvest taro leaves cut-and-come-again, never stripping the plant of all its leaves. Taro tubers can be boiled or fried like potatoes; taro leaves can be boiled like spinach.

Storing and preserving. Taro tubers can be left in the ground after maturing as long as the ground does not freeze. Lifted taro tubers should be stored in a cool, dry place. Clean and store taro tubers like sweet potatoes. Use the largest corms first as they do not keep as well as smaller tubers.

Taro Varieties to Grow

Varieties. There are various cultivars and forms of taro; some with purple leaves or purple veins in the leaves, some for growing in wet conditions and some for growing in dry conditions. Taro cultivars are often grouped by the color of their flesh–ranging from pink to yellow to white. Trinidad dasheen grows well in the United States.

Common name. Taro; cocoyam; dasheen; edo; elephant ear plant; yu, yu tou (Chinese); woo, wu choi (Cantonese); sato-imo, kimo (Japanese).

Botanical name. Colocasia esculenta
Origin. India and Southeast Asia

Malanga, taro, and yuca to the rescue!

There is some confusion about malanga and taro, and some people say they are the same thing. They aren’t. While they are in the same family (Araceae), Malanga belongs to the genus Xanthosoma and taro belongs to the genus Colocasia. They are related, but definitely not the same thing.

The fact that some stores and vendors label taro as malanga isleña only adds to the confusion. But, you can easily tell malanga and taro apart when you see them. Taro is more bulb- or barrel-shaped, has a smoother, not hairy, and lighter colored skin marked with rings, and the flesh inside is speckled with tiny pinkish-purplish dots.

I love the flavor and texture of taro. It is nutty and smooth and makes the best tasting fries. I prefer mashed taro with beef broth, but it tastes great with chicken, too.

More Info

To learn more about these and other tropical starches (including how to select good ones), I highly recommend this article from Food Arts:

Spotlight on Tropical Tubers and Other Starchy Staples

Antinutrients

An important note: all three of these roots need to be thoroughly cooked before consumption to deactivate the antinutrients and toxins found in them (this is true with most roots, tubers, and corms). It is generally recommended to always boil malanga, taro, or yuca first before frying or grilling. Not every recipe will tell you this, but based on my research, I prefer to boil these starches first before making fries from them.

You can actually get cyanide intoxication from eating improperly prepared yuca root (yikes!). Again, boiling for at least 20-25 minutes is the answer, as this will bring the levels of hydrocyanic acid (HCN) down to almost nothing (source). Soaking and fermenting is another effective method at reducing HCN and is a traditional method of preparation in many parts of the world.

Malanga and taro both have calcium oxalate crystals throughout the root, and some individuals may experience skin irritation when handling the raw, peeled roots, so you may want to wear gloves when handling (I don’t, though). Boiling will significantly reduce the oxalate levels in these roots, and Wikipedia says to add a pinch of baking soda for effectiveness, but I can’t access the source they cite to confirm that.

You can treat all of these roots the way you would potatoes and make chips, fries, or mash from them. I wouldn’t recommending pigging out on yuca chips too often, because you can’t boil them first before frying, and there is still residual HCN after frying only (source).

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

The following numbers for glycemic index (GI) and glyemic load (GL) are taken from the University of Sydney’s extensive database. For reference, 55 and under is considered low for GI, while 10 and under is considered low for GL. I’m providing these numbers for those of you who are watching the GI/GL of your food.

Malanga: serving size tested = 150 g. Glycemic Index ranges 50-63; Glycemic Load ranges 23-33.

Taro: serving size tested = 150 g. Glycemic Index ranges 48-56; Glycemic Load is 4.

Yuca: serving size tested = 100g. Glycemic Index 46; Glycemic Load is 12.

Mashed Malanga

Making mashed malanga, taro, or yuca is super easy! Here’s how to do it with malanga.

What Is A Malanga Root: Information About Malanga Root Uses

If you are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood populated by Caribbean or South American grocers, have lived or visited those areas, or are yourself from the tropics or South America, then you may be familiar with malanga root uses. Everyone else is probably saying “what is a malanga root?” Read on to find out more malanga plant info and about growing malanga roots in the garden.

Malanga Plant Info

Malanga is very similar to taro and eddo, and can be easily confused with them. In fact, in some areas, malanga root is called eddo, as well as yautia, cocoyam, coco, tannia, sato-imo and Japanese potato. The plant is grown for its tubers, or belembe or calalous, which are used in a variety of dishes.

What is a Malanga Root?

In North America, malanga is more commonly referred to as “elephant ear” and is generally grown as an ornamental. At the base of the plant is the corm or tuber around which radiate smaller corms.

The plant’s foliage can grow up to five feet long with huge leaves that look much akin to elephant ears. The young leaves are edible and used like spinach. The corm or tuber is earthy brown, looks kind of like big yam and can range from anywhere between ½ to 2 pounds in

size. The exterior hides the crisp interior yellow to reddish flesh.

Malanga Root Uses

In South America and other tropical regions, malanga tubers are commonly cultivated for use in the cuisines of those regions. The flavor is like a starchy nut. The tuber is high in calories and fiber along with riboflavin and folate. It also contains a modicum of iron and vitamin C.

It is often ground into flour but is also stewed, grilled, and sliced and then fried. For people with food allergies, malanga flour is an excellent substitute for wheat flour. This is because the starch grains contained in malanga are smaller, thus more easily digestible which reduces the risk of allergic reaction. As mentioned, the young leaves are also edible and are often used in stews and other dishes.

In Cuba and Puerto Rico, malanga features prominently in such dishes as alcapurrias, mondongo, pastels and sancocho; while in the Caribbean, the young leaves are integral to the famous callaloo.

Basically, malanga root can be used anywhere you would use a potato, yam or other root veggie. As with most other species of Araceae, malanga root contains calcium oxalate and saponin, whose bitter taste and toxic effects are cancelled out during cooking.

When the root is cooked, it softens and is ideal for use as a thickener and to make creamy dishes. The root is also often cooked down and mashed as potatoes for a creamy side dish. Malanga can be peeled, grated and then mixed with flour, egg, and herbs to make fritters.

Fresh malanga root can be kept at room temperature for a few weeks and even longer if kept in the refrigerator.

Growing Malanga Roots

There are two different malangas. Malanga blanca (Xantyosoma sagittifikium), which is grown on dry land, and malanga Amarillo (Colocasia esculenta), which is grown in boggy areas.

Malanga plants need full sun, temperatures above 68 degrees F. (20 C.) and damp, but well-draining soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 7.8.

Propagate by planting the entire main tuber or secondary tubers of just a piece of the main tuber. If you are using seed pieces, cure them first by dipping them into a fungicide and then allow to air dry for 2 hours.

Plant 3-4 inches deep in rows spaced 72 inches apart. Use an organic mulch to retain moisture and apply a 10-20-20 fertilizer, three times. Feed the plant first at 2 months and thereafter at 5 and 7 months.

Yautia, Tannia, Malanga, Arrowleaf Elephant Ear

View this plant in a garden

Category:

Perennials

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade

Foliage:

Grown for foliage

Smooth

Foliage Color:

Blue-Green

Height:

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

Spacing:

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Suitable for growing in containers

Danger:

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Pale Green

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama

Auburn, Alabama

Daphne, Alabama

Phoenix, Arizona

Garden Grove, California

Orange, Connecticut

Brandon, Florida(2 reports)

Brooksville, Florida

Cape Coral, Florida

Clearwater, Florida

Deltona, Florida

Dunnellon, Florida(2 reports)

Inverness, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

Lakeland, Florida

Loxahatchee, Florida

Miami, Florida

North Fort Myers, Florida

Ocala, Florida

Orlando, Florida

Pensacola, Florida

Rockledge, Florida

Sebring, Florida

Seffner, Florida

Tampa, Florida

Titusville, Florida

Winter Haven, Florida

Dallas, Georgia

Hawkinsville, Georgia

Hinesville, Georgia

Lahaina, Hawaii

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Kansas City, Missouri

North Las Vegas, Nevada

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Emerald Isle, North Carolina

Huntersville, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Stilwell, Oklahoma

Vieques, Puerto Rico

Conway, South Carolina

Lexington, South Carolina

Austin, Texas

Grand Prairie, Texas

Houston, Texas

Humble, Texas

Richmond, Texas

show all

How to Cook Malanga

Malanga, easily confused with yam or taro root, might not be the most dynamic looking of root vegetables, but what it lacks in aesthetic appeal it makes up for in utility and versatility.

If you’ve never explored how to cook malanga, it makes for a great potato substitute, whilst boasting higher fibre and more nutrients. What’s more, with its starchy flesh and unique nutty flavour malanga expresses itself equally well in any number of dishes.

How to Cook Malanga

Malanga can only be eaten cooked but are fortunately very simple to prepare. Start by cleaning the root with a brush under running water, trim the ends and remove the skin. Rinse each piece after peeling and cover in cold water.

When it comes to cooking them try them boiled, mashed or deep fried into chips. As the flesh tends to disintegrate when boiled malanga also makes a great thickener in soups and broths.

Malanga are also commonly found in Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes such as sancocho, mondongo, pasteles and alcapurrias.

Malanga root can also be made into powder or flour, which comes in handy for those with wheat intolerances.

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