- 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
Our project aimed to help taro farmers and invite other local farmers to grow more taros for the community. Taro is a nutritious underutilized crop that is barely seen in our markets today. The project experimented with several planting techniques and methods to produced healthy and good yields with a marketable appearance. The project was conducted into two phases; first, to conduct experiments with sustainable planting techniques and methods for taro. Second, to study and create the development of a value-added product using the taro grown during the experiment period and to extend the shelf-life of taro.
One of the first highlights that emerged from the project was the nutritional analysis of the final product “Ready-to-Cook Frozen Taro.” Our samples were sent to a laboratory in Gwan Ju, Korea. We included a one-month taro sample, which was grown during the dry season, along with a six-month-old frozen sample, which was grown during the rainy season. We compared the differences in the nutritional value as shown in Table 1.
We achieved favorable results from the experiment in the project. We were able to produce taro with better nutritional value during the rainy season under the sustainable planting techniques and methods.
Another successful result in our experiment was the appearance of the product. We were skeptical about the changing appearance of the taro corms because of freezing temperatures and storage time. Our goal was to vacuum-pack the corms for six months to evaluate. Observations on most packages showed minimal change in vacuum-pack bags during the sixth month. The taro corms were able to maintain their rich pink color that is a marketable appearance in the CNMI. We also tested taros in standard zip-loc bags, however the marketable value lasted a short time of two weeks due to freezer burns. We discontinued this study using zip-loc bags for health and safety purposes.
During the extension presentation, we provided three different frozen taro samples: 1) Fresh taro, 2) three-month frozen taro, 3) six-month frozen taro. Each sample was boiled in different pots for the same amount of time and served in different containers. The participants were given simple surveys to answer regarding frozen taro sample taste testing. We obtained the results and responses from all farmers, community members as well as college extension staff. The taste results were very surprising since many testers could not tell much difference between the samples. This informed us that the low-cost value-added product is highly acceptable. A few testers informed us about another possible achievement, as they could not taste any “itchiness” from the frozen samples, which is was a good result from the experiment.
Overall, we found the project to be very helpful in extending the shelf-life of taro during and after harvesting seasons. In addition, we learned that the product was exportable to neighboring islands in this value-added state. The experiment was successful since the responses from the local farmers were great as they enjoyed the taro samples and had plans to incorporate sustainable methods when growing taro for the community.
The objectives of this project are
(1) to provide small farm businesses with an alternative method and the interest to venture back into producing nutritious and favorable taro for the community,
(2) to conduct a study on how to extend the shelf-life of taro as well as 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 alternative method for taro farmers,including the confidence in producing more taro for the community during the off-season.