Bac Ha

seeds6(z8 OR)March 25, 2004

Today, I went to the Wal-Mart store and saw them displayed those roots called "Elephant Ear Mammoth."

The picture posted outside the box looks similar like those green tubes that my mother usually buys at the Asian store to make a sour soup. We called "Bac Ha" in Vietnamese but we donÂt know what to call them in English.

Can anyone verify for me that those roots are the same type with those green tubes that sell at the Asian store? If we grow those plants, can we use them to make a sour soup or not?

Also, I need an instruction of how to grow those roots. Thank you for your help!

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They're pretty much the same but there may be a difference in variety. You're better off getting them from an Asian Grocer because they're usually much cheaper. Many gardeners who don't eat it, but want to grow it will do this.

They're water loving and prefer warm climates.

The common English name when it's referred to as a root vegetable is "Taro".

Here is a link that might be useful: Plenty of growing information

    Bookmark   March 25, 2004 at 2:19PM
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Eggo(z10soCal LBC)

Although I have never known Violet to be wrong, I have to disagree with her on this. They are considered to be different plants, taro is elephant ears but the other plant is something else. If in "green tubes" you mean the stem, I have never seen anyone use elephant ear stems as a vegetable. The other plant doesn't really develop much of a tuber and the stems can be
served cooked or raw. I have tasted it in a few different southeast Asian cruisine.

I haven't had much luck finding information on it though. It could be Colocasia indica or Alocasia indica or whatever it's under now. While taro(elephant ear) is Colocasia esculenta.

I am growing both kinds but they don't seem to be thriving too well but I expect growing conditions are just like taro.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 25, 2004 at 10:11PM
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Hi Eggo,

I'll take that as a compliment... I am 100% sure that the plant is question is Colocasia esculenta. The difference is in the cultivars and I'd need more time to research the specifics (Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum) is one of them.

Leaves, stems, and tubers are eaten, just depends on which country and culture is being referred to. While most cultivars are grown for their tubers, some are grown specifically for their stems instead of the tubers because they are thicker. [Never eat the leaves or stems raw because they contain calcium oxalate (crystals) which can cause irritation.]

Can anyone provide more information on cultivar specifics?

Other common English names in addition to taro are edo, eddo, malanga, dasheen.

Here is a link that might be useful: Look here for more information

    Bookmark   March 26, 2004 at 2:05AM
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Eggo(z10soCal LBC)

Hi Violet,

We are both right in a way. Here's some info I found recently
"There are many kinds of taro, and one member of the Colocasia family, Colocasia gigantea, produces no tuber, neither is the leaf eaten, but the leaf stalks are sliced and used in Cambodian and Vietnamese soups, lightly cooked and still crisp. Their porous structure enables them to hold the flavoursome stock much as a sponge holds water. They have also been discovered by adventurous chefs of other persuasions and are served sliced in salads and other dishes where the delicate flavour and crisp texture find favour. These petioles (leaf stalks) may even be eaten raw, but first make sure they are the right kind - the Japanese call it zuiki; Cambodians and Vietnamese, bac ha. Ask for an English translation and they will tell you 'taro', but it is best to buy it from a shop and not to go foraging yourself unless you are knowledgeable about such matters."

It states that it is called taro but again I have to say that it is not Colocasia esculenta however I can't be sure what it is. That article actually said that it's Colocasia gigantea but other sources may contradict it with different species name and even genus sometimes. Heck, I think there is a big confusion out there on what it is.

Colocasia indica

Colocasia gigantea

Colocasia gigantea article

    Bookmark   March 26, 2004 at 3:23AM
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Eggo(z10soCal LBC)

Violet is absolutely correct on never eating the stems or leaves of Colocasia esculenta raw. The article states that even improperly cooking it can be dangerous.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2004 at 3:38AM
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seeds6(z8 OR)

Violet and Eggo  Thank you very much for the time that you guys spent on this subject.

I think the more I read those articles the more I am getting confused. For instance, in the middle of the paragraph the author said, "first make sure they are the right kind - the Japanese call it zuiki; Cambodians and Vietnamese, bac ha" and the end of the paragraph the author called it," Vietnam: khoai mon." I did ask my mother and she said they are not the same.

Anyway, I just want to know if I go to buy Elephant Ears Mammoth at the Wal-Mart store, I should not use their stems for cooking, right?

Eggo  if I buy those green stems at the Asian store and dip them with the root hormone, can I grow a plant that way because I donÂt know where I can buy those seeds? Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 12:12AM
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Ask your mother what she thinks the difference is. I'm sure they are not the same to her, but there can be many names within a language for the same thing... regionally. It just depends....

As for buying stems at the Asian store... i don't think you'll be able to root them. You need the "corms"... in order to plant them.

If you want to buy the Elephant Ears at Wal-Mart, try it. You're not going to lose anything by it, but it is also at your own risk. It is ok for you to use the stems... but only if you cook it well first. Personally, I would inquire at the Asian store and see if the owners can get the "corms" or "bulb" part of the plant for you. In my experience they are usually quite happy to help their patrons find what they're looking for. Primarily because those that are sold for food are often from plants that have been bred to reduce the levels of calcium oxalate. I'm sure there are mail order sources available if you're interested...

Here is a link that might be useful: Cooking Taro

    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 3:09AM
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Eggo(z10soCal LBC)

OOps sorry it should of said "Colocasia esculenta article" and only a portion of it was about Colocasia gigantea. The article itself was about taro so when it says "Vietnam: khoai mon" I believe they are talking about Colocasia esculenta. I hope that cleared some things up.

I would only use those Elephant Ears for its tubers and not its stems. And as Violet stated checking with your local Asian store would be your best choice. Most of the time the vegetables are from a local supplier. If your not able to find any though, drop me an email and I'll send you some. However, mine aren't the most healthiest specimen out there so its small. They can get quite large though as in those pictures but I doubt the lady was more than 5'2.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 6:27AM
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The 2 plants are close cousins but not the same. Bac-ha is identified as Alocasia odora, the rhizome is called cu ra'y in Vietnamese. Taro is Colocasia, called khoai mon. Inappropriate handling of bac-ha can cause skin irritation.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2004 at 1:03AM
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phivang(z10 SoCal)

Sorry if I'm late on this subject.

OtCay: Alocasia odora has a noticable purple/blue color in the stem and the leaves, so I don't believe it to be bac-ha. Don't you think it's Colocasia gigantea since it's a lighter green? Also bac-ha doesn't have much of a rhizome, at least the plant I'm familiar with in the South. The stem is the main vegetable ingredient in the Southern Vietnamese dish "sour soup".

Khoai-mon is Taro or Colocasia esculenta as already identified by the experts here. It's grown strictly to harvest the tubers for human.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 2:10AM
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HI Phivang,
I was quoting the book "Medicinal Plants of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos" by Nguyen-Van-Duong who identified the bac-ha as A. odora. Not being an expert I can't say whether the bac-ha is a Alocasia or a Colocasia. One thing for sure is that bac-ha and taro are 2 distinct plants.
Even the taro, in Vietnamese we make the distinction between the "khoai mon" and the "khoai so," when in English there's only one name taro.
Perhaps a more definitive search is needed to finalize the fate of bac-ha.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2004 at 2:44AM
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I wish i read this message sooner so i could join the discussion. But I can't help much. I don't know their names, I don't know the differents between them. But if you buy them at the vegetable section in the market then you can eat them (if not, sue the store :)) Let me tell you this story about my family. About 30 years ago when we didn't have any Asian food stores around town. My parents would really be happy if they saw tropical veggies or fruits here in the state (they found watercrest in the creek, basil along side walk...). One day my mom saw the American neighbor had the elephant ears (and we thought it was "bac ha"). Mom asked for some and made the sour soup knowing that we would enjoy the surprise (cause we haven't had it for quite long time). We were surprised alright. After the meal, we were feeling a little uncomfortable. To be exact, we were itching. Ever tried to scratch the inside of your mouth!!! We were fine after a while but it was a longgggg nite.

Anyway, Seeds6, if you're not sure the one in Walmart was the right kind then buy them at the Asian store. Rather be safe then sorry (like s/one). If you want to plant them just ask the ppl who work in the Asian store. They might give you the farmer's name or at least order some plants for you. They do it here in Texas.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 12:35AM
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i grow some variety of taro( khoai mon) here is the picture, the tall green on the back are edible taro(cu khoai mon) i only harvest the tubers and nothing else. the lower green leaves on front bottom are also edible taro( Bac Ha) i only use sterm to make sour soup. i know others would use bac ha leaves and khoai mon sterm to make soup but i found that they are not that tasty.

Here is a link that might be useful: picture

    Bookmark   July 4, 2005 at 1:22PM
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AAccording to the following link, Bac Ha is alocasia odora. There is a picture  you can see if it is the plant you are talking about.

I went to a Vietnamese market not too long ago & they were selling both regular & giant taro. I used to think they were the same plant until I saw them  they are drastically different. I planted one but I donÂt think it has sprouted yet.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2005 at 12:29AM
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Eggo(z10soCal LBC)

I have to agree on Phivang on this, it doesn't seem that Bac Ha is Alocasia odora. I am also leaning more towards Colocasia gigantea. Alocasia odora seems to have a more shiny look on the leaves and seems to be much darker hue of green. Bac Ha has what I would call a matted finish and tends to be lighter in color. Here's some I have in my yard, not the healthiest bunch, it can get extremely large. Maybe some one could compare them to what they have.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2005 at 4:19AM
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i agree with Eggo, that is Bac Ha are same as what i have.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 7:34PM
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SBRanger(Sunset zone15)

Don't forget "tahitian taro" which actually Xanthosoma brasilense. One GW member reports that people in central america eat the stems and leaves raw. I can't verify that, but what I do know is this; Of all the edible taros I grow, the two "low calcium oxalate varieties" i.e. "tahitian taro and Bun Long" are the only varieties that suffer snail damage in my garden.

These two types are favored for edible leaf production in Hawaii. Bun Long also produced a very large edible corm.

Caution - in Hawaii the leaves, stems, and corms are well cooked. Until I sit down at the table with someone who has eaten a specific variety raw or semi-cooked and does so frequently, I am not experimenting based upon book info or word of mouth. I have already had some itchy experiences with cooked taro leaves.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 10:28AM
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Eggo(z10soCal LBC)

Thanks for the interesting info SBRanger. I've never heard of tahitian taro before.
I have never had taro leaves or stems before. Its something I just learnt about recently also.
Has anyone else tried Bac Ha raw? Its usually prepared by stripping away the outer tough skin and rinsing it in water.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2005 at 2:16AM
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tintin002(z9 LA)


mom, i want some canh chua!!!!!!!!!!!! :o)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 2:57PM
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Eggo(z10soCal LBC)

Is that the Vietnamese hot & sour soup? yummy!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 2:32PM
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Okay... so I had some Sour Catfish soup.... this spongy vegetable in it was bac ha? or canh chua?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 11:33AM
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"Canh chua" is the soup; "bac hà " is the vegetable.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 12:17AM
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oh okay... thank you! :o) I got confused somewhere....

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 11:11AM
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Colocasia gigantea is a beautiful plant with a powdery blue complexion and gets really big.It does not form a large tuber like other "taro's" but it does "pup" profusely.With so much bantering about Bac Ha and the possibility of eating the petiole raw (which intrigued me), I decided to give it a cautious try. This was a mistake. Merely touching the sliced petiole to my tongue resulted in poisoning. Fortunately, non got any further that the front part of my tongue so my airway was not affected and thorough rinsing of my mouth finally brought relief in about 30 minutes. You might imagine what would happen if I had actually chewed and swallowed some of the uncooked petiole. Colocasia gigantea cannot be eaten raw wheather or not it is "Bac Ha".

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 1:02PM
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I think I maybe too late for saying this, do not buy the elephant ears that Wal-mart carries. I have both those from Wal-mart and the actual edible Bac Ha. They look similar but the leaves are slightly different.

As many other plants, there are different species among its own kind. I wouldn't take a chance on something I'm not sure of. Like everyone's advise, go to the Asian market and purchase them.

If you have a question on any tropical or Vietnamese plants & vegetables, I can direct you to a local VNmese nursery that you may send questions to. Here's their website:

They've been in business for years and carries a large variety of all sort of plants and vegetables. She's also very familiar with their botanical names.

I go there and she teaches me alot how to grow plants and vegetables. Her relatives are also in the business. If you live in Houston and you're familiar with the famous Joseph's nursery in Pearland, JRN is a cousin nursery from the same family. Although, it's unfortunate that Joseph's Nursery does not have a website.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 9:27PM
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I am fortunate to live in the central coast region of California where I am only 1 or 2 hours from large Asians community in San Francisco and San Jose with many ethnic grocery stores; and two, we have local nurseries that will special order horticultural varities of colocasia for me since they are grown locally in green houses.

I have one major problem. I can not always winter them by leaving them in the pots in my unheated green house. Half of them just rot away by spring. I was told to dig them up before the frost, dry them out and store them indoor packed with peat moss or vermiculite. Is it best to pack them in ventilated cardbord box or with sealed plastic bag? Is it necessary to protect the tubers from light?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 12:20AM
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Do not seal them in an airtight container, they will rot. They need to breathe. Yes, you need to protect them from light so they remain dormant. The peat or vermiculite should be moistened just a little, the bulbs are still alive and require something to remain hydrated, just not much. Check once a month or so to make sure they are not dried out.

1 Like    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 11:14AM
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Thank you Violet for your important advice.

The best selection of taro available at our Asians groceries is in the late summer or autumn.

I purchased 2 varieties yesterday, a white bud one and a very large one with 3 smaller corms the size of a peas attached.

Would it be better to put them in pots now or wait until spring. In the Salinas city area, we stay warm until early November?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 3:55PM
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alpharetta(z7 GA)

I live in the Atlanta GA and have some BacHa growing in my garden. Will they survie thru the winter in Atlanta? Or I will need to dig up before the frost?

As for the terminlogy of BACHA, it can be understood as the BACHA to cook CANH_CHUA with style of Southern of Vietnam, or BACHA as the mint herb plant, which most people from North vietnam refer too.

Don't use the leaves of Khoai_Mon taros to cook canhchua. That could make your mouth very itchy

1 Like    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 4:28PM
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Wow, thanks for all of this very useful information. I just came across this vegetable for the first time this week in a wonderful sour soup. I will be trying to make some of my own soon.

Here is a link that might be useful: my bac ha page

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 11:08PM
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I returned to my vegetable and flower garden at the first weekend of spring last week. I have 2 varieties or species of Lycium, the wide leaf which does much better in the shade and the narrow small leaf one which will will produce numerous bright red berries(call gogi at Cotsco).

I share the same obession with many other members for elephant ears. In our area we get the best selection around the Moon Cake Festival. I took Violet's advice and wrap 6 of them up in newspaper and store them in a shoebox in my bedroom and forgot about them until last week, but I also planted half of them in 1 gallon bucket. 2 of these neglected molded and rotted away. But the 4 other 4 still have healthy buds and I planted them in 1 gallon bucket in a a unheated green house.

Most of you in California knows that we had a record low temperature this season. It is the first time in 20 years I saw all the leaves on my unprotected Alocasia wilted, but they are coming back with new leaves. I fortuntely kept all the Colocasias in the unheated greenhouse, and I think and hope that most of them will make it, but the leaves are all gone.

In the Asian markets in San Francisco and San Jose area, I have found several types of taro. They are label by the markets as big or baby taro. Whether 2 pounds or baby, I was taught not to plant the whole corm. We always cut off the the healthy apex of the corm for growing, and eat the rest of the corm. My experience with growing the whole corms is that the corm will atropy, rot away, and eventually leave a big cavity or hole in the container or ground.

The green bud, black, and red bud one are the colocasias. You can also find a carrot shape one with a large red flat bud, and this very popular with our Philippino frieds, which they call malinga. I believe this is a Xanthosoma violaceum, this will give you a beautiful bluish green leaf plant. It is rather easy to grow but have never survived a winter in my garden.

You can also find another taro which looks identical to the baby colocasia but it has a flat white bud , and the shape leave are ligher green than the pink flesh malinga. I believe this is also a Xanthosoma (sagittifolium ?)(YAUTIA?)

There is another colocasia found in our Asian markets and it is sold as large stem or as a potted plant in the market or open market. This beautiful light green leaf distinctive vein plant is labeled locally as Bac Ha. The tuber is rather small regardless of the large leaves.

I am no plant taxonomist, and I will never any aroid unless I find it being sold in a food market.

I want to thank members on this web for teaching me how to store and save taro over the winter which I had never done before. This will save me much time and gas money. I will continue to learn from all of you.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 1:18AM
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alpharetta(z7 GA)

I just wanted to update that the BAC HA i growed last year survived the winter and came back in the spring. So no need to dig them up and store in house in the winter time. Winter last year was really harsh, temp dropped down in Atlanta to 25-28 F....

    Bookmark   October 9, 2007 at 2:35PM
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The last message for Bac Ha is 2007. Looks like everybody got her own, but me.
Yong: Please tell me the info of local farmers. I am in San Jose. I was unlucky at 99. Nobody there knows the name of farmers. One said coming from Hawaii...

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 7:02PM
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You may have better luck at Lion City supermarket at the Lion City Plaza at Tully Road east of Highway 101. There are many Asians flowers and plants sold at the open market.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 8:12PM
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Hi. I live in Michigan, I love to have one (Bac Ha) could someone kind enough to send me one? I brought one from CA many years ago and it live about 5 years in a large, thick styrofoam pot until we move to a new house and we left it outside in the winter. Now I really want to have one (bac ha) not taro because I can grow taro(khoi mon) from the roots i buy at the store. I love canh chua. so please send me an email if you have some.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 8:28PM
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I think Yong is correct about cutting off the top of the bulb where the stalk used to be and eat the bulb. It iwas an ornamental alocasia I did this with, with the stalk attatched, though - and it grew back into a big plant.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2015 at 6:43PM
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