Squirrels, Elephant Ears, and Equatorial Guinea (w/ Poll)

Tulsa seems to be channeling a little bit of Equatorial Guinea.  After record-breaking snowstorms, the sky is blue, the air is warm, love birds are chirping, and a squirrel is peering at me over a fence. He’s wondering where the 14 inches of snow went. And why the trees are budding in February. The one thing he doesn’t have to worry about, however, is being dinner. I’m not interested and my cats are way too slow.

In Equatorial Guinea, Mr Squirrel might be faced with a different fate. In the countryside, anything that moves is liable to become dinner – although gorillas and monkeys are now off limits.

But what about veggies? The people of Equatorial Guinea also eat their veggies. One of the more interesting is the malanga – a tuber with leafy greens that came over with Cubans. Apparently in the 19th century, when slaves and political prisoners were freed from Cuba, many landed in Equatorial Guinea. They brought their malanga with them and the rest is history.

Have you heard of elephant ears? At least 10 of my neighbors grow elephant ears in their flower beds. They are a type of malanga, or taro or dasheen leaves. Many names… one family of plants.

So the big question remains – if I sneak into my neighbors gardens, can I harvest a basket of elephant ears and safely eat them? I hear they’re toxic unless cooked… and that they contribute to kidney stones. But, if cooked properly, I wonder if our local elephant ears are good eats?

Someone save me from myself. I’m really tempted…

Source: “Internationalizing cultural studies: an anthology” Photos: AndrewMT


  1. I had never heard of it ! This plant looks interesting, though the whole toxic story would probably make me think twice about trying it !

    • Sasha Martin says

      Apparently a good overnight soak and/or baking soda while cooking works wonders to make it edible…

  2. aunty eileen says

    “The Elephant Ear or the Giant taro is a huge bulbous plant found in the South Pacific region, and also known for *medicinal purposes* throughout the centuries. Its scientific name is Alocasia macrorhiza (L.) G. Don f. although it’s almost been called numerous other names by different cultures and indifferent languages. *It’s famous partly for* its health and medicinal purposes although nowadays mostly people grow them for ornamental purposes. The natives in the areas of the South Pacific have used these plants for many different uses before.

    The Elephant Ear is a perennial herb …… and it also bears fruit that is attached to the stem with 1 or 2 seeds. Generally no one pays much mind to the fruits or the flowers because of the rhizome. The rhizome can be eaten after being well-cooked.

    This bulbous plant also has its *medicinal purposes* other than being served as *a nutritional food when cooked*. The sap of the stems can be used to treat earache, cuts and wounds, or boils in the ear and swollen lymph glands can be treated with the roots. The wood that can be found can be used to treat stomachache and diarrhea. Sometimes, sexual insufficiency can be treated by eating the leaves that are cooked in coconut milk.”

  3. John Varner says

    I would definitely try them, though I would probably keep it to a small portion to taste before launching headlong into elephant ear dining, you know, just in case. On the subject of squirrels, they’re delicious. My grandfather used to cook them whenever he had the chance and they were great. They taste a bit like rabbit but somewhat gamier, though that’s probably because the rabbit’s I’ve eaten have been domestic and the squirrels have been wild.

    • John Varner says

      From what I understand it’s an immigration official’s interpretation of the German pronunciation of Warner that just stuck. I did spend a semester studying abroad in Hungary though.

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