Taro is one of the two dozen plants that comprised the "canoe garden"—the plants that the migratory Polynesians brought with them on their 2,500-mile voyage in sailing outrigger canoes from Tahiti and other islands in the South Pacific.
The roots are pounded into a purplish paste called poi, a staple of traditional luaus and often the brunt of yucky jokes. Mainlanders may wish to try taro chips as an introduction to the plant, since crispy fried grease and salt translates to any taste buds.
The taro fields at the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge pictured here are the largest in Hawaii. Many of the workers these days come from a small island near Samoa, following the route that the original root took some 1,500 years ago.