- Vegetables: taro
- Crop Production: windbreaks
- Education and Training: display, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, value added
- Natural Resources/Environment: hedges - grass, hedgerows
- Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management, weather monitoring
- Soil Management: nutrient mineralization
- Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, employment opportunities, sustainability measures
Taro (Colocasia Esculenta) is a nutritious root crop that thrives and grows well during the rainy season in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI). Taro has an abundance of nutritional vitamins, as well as fiber and protein. This nutrition comes from the corm section of the plant, which could weigh between .8 to 1.5 lbs per corm. In the past, before rice was introduced to the local population, taro and yam were the staples eaten with fish or poultry. To revive this local crop in the market and have it available to consumers during the off-season is an objective of this project. Educating interested producers and farmers about the process is another objective. Due to is short shelf life after harvest, taro is barely available and rarely seen in both commercial and farmers markets.
On the island of Saipan, the taro corm is barely available in both fresh markets and commercial markets due to several reasons. One reason for its low supply is the fact that it is a seasonal crop mainly available during the end of the year. During the months of November and December, the heavy supply of taro and the competitive markets leave farmers with excess or wasted taro corms. From this experience, taro farmers have looked into other crops that could be grown year-round. Another reason for its low supply, and lack of interest in the farming community, is the wait time before harvest. Taro (Colocasia esculenta) is harvested between seven to nine months, which is when the corm is mature and ready for consumption. Due to the long maturation period, a majority of farmers prefer growing crops that can be harvested within a two- to four-month span. Another reason for low interest is the life span or storage time before spoilage. After harvesting taro, the corm will either spoil or rot after five to eight days in room temperature. During the wait time, the corm is losing both nutritional value and taste. Many farmers are not comfortable with the wait time and storage time required during their operations. Hence, many farmers prefer fast maturing crops such as leafy vegetables. In addition to that, many farmers do not know how to properly store their surplus taro after their open market activity. Due to these reasons, taro and its nutrition is fading away from our community’s diet.
The development and study of packaging frozen taro will provide small-farm businesses with an alternate method and the interest to venture back into producing nutritious and favorable taro for the community. Experiments will be conducted on how to extend the shelf-life of taro as well as techniques on packaging taro to preserve its taste and nutritional value. To be creative in the potential market, varieties of popular taro will be processed in two different styles before inserting the raw corms in the packages. The processing styles will be one pealed raw corm and the other will be a pealed and sliced raw corm. Later, the taro will be tested for taste as well as nutritional value during each of the seven months after the initial harvest, during the taro’s off-season. The study will observe how the favorable taro responds in frozen packages. The study will include observations on appearance, taste and nutritional value. Records of planting, harvesting, processing, packing and sampling during the different months will be carefully gathered and shared for future feasibility studies or planning for the local farmers. This project is also intended to promote an alternate method for taro farmers, providing the community with favorable taro during the off-season and the confidence in producing more taro for the community.
Project objectives from proposal:
(1) to provide small-farm businesses with an alternate method and the interest to venture back into producing nutritious and favorable taro for the community,
(2) to conduct studies on how to extend the shelf-life of taro as well as the technology to package taro to preserve its taste and nutritional value during non-harvesting season (approximately seven months),
(3) to study how the favorable taro responds in frozen packages based on appearance, taste and nutritional value,
(4) to disseminate all information on planting, harvesting, processing, packaging and sampling collected from different months, and,
(5) to promote an alternate method for taro farmers, providing the community with favorable taro during the off-season and the confidence in producing more taro for the community.