Elephants retired from the traveling circus, but the extraordinary show goes on with the flashy foliage of Malanga (Xanthosoma sagittifolium (L.) Schott., Elephant’s ear, Yautia, New cocoyam, Tania, Yautia, Chou Caraïbe, costela de adão).
This tropical perennial herb is native to parts of Central and South America, but is widely cultivated and naturalized in other tropical regions around the world. It makes for a standout addition to home decor, where it might be better known as an elephant ear plant.
This tropical perennial can be grown comfortably on patios, and overwintered indoors in cool season climates. Malanga is a very versatile plant that can be grown in shade, but will also flourish in the heat and light of a full, warm sun. It’s drought and slightly flood tolerant. The roots of Malanga will grow despite a few inches of standing water, but the leaves should not be submerged.
In Tropical America, people have harvested tubers for sustainable diets for years. Malanga makes an impressive ornamental plant above ground, with a starchy stem below. Malanga produces large underground tubers called corms, which are each about the size of a potato. In fact, Malanga makes a suitable replacement for most recipes that call for potatoes, or natural thickeners. When prepared to eat, they add an earthy and nutty taste to soups, stews, purees and more.
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