TARO YAYENA: A Super Gabi From Palawan

Eric Yayen holding a three-kilo root of Taro Yayena.
Cooked Taro Yayena fried ala french fries. The violet markings become prominent when fried. It is greaseless when fried because this taro has heavy carbohydrates.

Among a number of things that excited us during our trip to Palawan (February 11-14, 2020) is a native gabi that we have seen and tasted for the first time. It is a native upland gabi we now call Taro Yayena for identification purposes until the botanists can give us the right cultivar name, if any. Why Yayena? It’s because it was Eric Yayen who introduced the taro to us.

Taro Yayena might as well be called a Super Gabi. It produces big edible roots or corms that are so tasty and could be a good substitute for rice, maybe better than rice in terms of nutrition and taste. A good friend of ours who has a laboratory in his factory in Baguio will have the roots analyzed for its nutritional contents.

In the morning of February 13, Yayen fried the roots ala french fries which we ate for breakfast. We ate the fried taro with hot chocolate, a cup of arroz caldo, boiled saba and boiled camote. We ate mostly the fried taro, dipped in coco syrup. It was very filling. It was greaseless because, according to Eric Yayen, it has a heavy carbohydrate content

Unlike most gabi cultivars which have pure white flesh, Taro Yayena has purplish markings without clear pattern. When cooked, the purplish color becomes very pronounced. The first corm that Yayen showed us weighed about 3 kilos. There are much bigger roots that could weigh 7 kilos or more each. A 3-kilo root is more than enough for one meal to feed a family of three or four.  Of course, there are smaller roots, depending on how many roots a plant produces. Aside from fried Taro Yayena, the roots can be prepared in various ways that the gabi is usually cooked in the Philippines. It could be an ingredient in baked products.

The Palaw’an tribe up in the mountain of Rizal town call the taro by either two names, Bisol or Tales. Small corms as big as ordinary red onions are used for planting. We will see how they will fare at the Sarian Farm in Teresa, Rizal. We have a few corms for propagation.

Yayen, by the way, is a restaurant owner with a soft heart for the farmers. When the price of the taro in the market is P30 per kilo, he pays the farmer P40 per kilo. He also has a soft heart for the PWDs. In his restaurant, he employs many deaf mutes and others with disabilities.

Unlike other taro varieties which have pure white flesh, Taro Yayena has violet markings.
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