Kōtak (Colocasia esculenta - Araceae)

Marshallese man holds kotak (Colocasia esculenta) while standing next to a cultivated patch of iaraj.
Description: Kōtak is a perennial herb consisting of a cluster of large, smooth, heart-shaped leaves that grow to a height of about 60 cm (2 ft) or more. The swollen, underground stem (corm) of kōtak is edible if well cooked.
Distribution: This important aroid root crop ("soft" or "sweet taro") is believed to be native to the Old World tropics of Southeast Asia or New Guinea, where it is has been cultivated since ancient times. It may have been introduced into the Marshall Islands by the early Micronesians, or possibly during the historic period. The French artist Choris observed this plant in the Ratak chain in 1817; however, some believe it was introduced more recently. This may be true, at least for Epoon, where kōtak is neither regarded as an especially desirable food, nor is it widely cultivated. Moreover, the similarity between the Kosraean (kuhtak) and Marshallese names suggests that it was introduced from Kosrae, perhaps as a result of European contact at the end of the last century, possibly by missionaries coming from Kosrae. The wetland varieties of kōtak are generally grown with iaraj (Cyrtosperma chamissonis) in excavated pits (bōl)[see photo above and photo on iaraj page].

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