Amadumbe: new readers start here

Flickr photo by Skymonger
Flickr photo by Skymonger
Ah, but the power of the intertubes. Bob has raised an old thread from the dead by providing more information about Luigi’s Nibble that “Amadumbe being sold to supermarkets in South Africa“. Some readers may not notice good stuff in the comments (one reason we like to feature a comment from time to time) and so we’re elevating Bob’s latest comment to a post.

I am currently based in New Zealand and have access to Taro in a few varieties , via the Pacific Island communities, one of which is the wild version, which has notably black stems. This is not true of Madumbi, which also has a flower very similar to the Arum. I would be very keen to grow the South African variety as it is a very different flavour to the common Pacific Taro which as previously noted is very bland. Here is a link to a picture of the flower …

I did some more Googling, and found out a bit more about the project and its originater; depending on the story that’s either “Dr James Hartzell, a self-proclaimed ‘white boy from New York’,” or Professor Thembinkosi Modi, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Agricultural Sciences. (Modi won a TWAS (Third World Academy of Science) Young Scientist Award in 2007.) Whatever, the end result was an organic cooperative of growers sending the amadumbe (or amadumbi) to a supermarket chain. Everything seemed rosy, with farmers reporting higher incomes that they were using to improve their lives, buying better houses, medical care, and education for their children. Except that there seems to have been a worm in the amadumbe: free-riders. Who were they?

Members who were male, poorly educated, partially certified, aware of loopholes in the grading system, and who did not trust the buyer.

The authors of the paper quoted above make specific recommendations to deal with the problem, but I cannot discover whether anything came of them. I’m also no aroid taxonomist, and frankly I’m not sure how informative the flower photo is,1 but there you have it. Now, maybe other people can chime in with more information.

  1. Downloaded from flickr. []

2 Replies to “Amadumbe: new readers start here”

  1. In the dasheen types of taro, the corm is cylindrical and large. It is up to 30cm long and 15cm in diameter, and constitutes the main edible part of the plant. In eddoe types, the corm is small, globoid, and surrounded by several cormels (stem tubers) and daughter corms. The cormels and the daughter corms together constitute a significant proportion of the edible harvest in eddoe taro. Daughter corms usually give rise to subsidiary shoots even while the main plant is still growing, but cormels tend to remain dormant and will only give rise to new shoots if left in the ground after the death of the main plant. Each cormel or each daughter corm has a terminal bud at its tip, and axillary buds in the axils of the numerous scale leaves all over its body.

    That’s from an FAO publication. I’m pretty sure most South Pacific material is the dasheen type, but the photos of the South African corm look more like eddoes. I think the eddoe is generally considered closer to the wild type, which has small corms and runners, but I could be wrong.

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