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Oct 1, 2008 09:27 AM

Edibility of ti leaves?

Heaven only knows if I'll ever get around to using the leaves to cook with, but I recently came across a greenmarket vendor selling ti plants for cheap and, to make a very long story short, bought one. How well it will grow under my HID growlight is another story, but I was wondering if anyone knows if any of the ti plant/Cordyline species are toxic to humans? This one isn't labelled but the most common species seems to be C. terminalis for whatever that's worth. I assume/hope it's non-toxic (one doesn't actually eat the leaves, right?) not but haven't been able to dig up anything useful with Google and figured I'd toss the question out here...

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  1. In Hawaii we use ti leaves for wrapping food like laulaus, etc. but do not eat the ti leaves. I don't think they are toxic, otherwise we wouldn't cook with them, right? They don't break down in cooking much and they don't taste good (I've chewed/eaten small pieces of ti leaves that get mixed in with the luau leaves in a laulau - not pleasant, but not deadly either). I've also seen them used under dim sum in steamer baskets so the food doesn't stick to the wood basket.

    1 Reply
    1. re: akq

      Thanks! I figured they weren't all toxic, but since technically there are a bunch of different species all referred to as "ti", I was somewhat concerned there might be a dangerous species or two in among the more benign ones....

    2. As far as I know Ti (cordyline) is not toxic. In times of famine the roots were boiled as a substitute for poi, and fermeted the cooked roots are the basis of "okolehao", a Hawaii version of moonshine (no, I've never had it, and don't know anyone who has). I found this 2003 link from the Honolulu Advertiser, have no idea if the stuff is still made:

      1 Reply
      1. re: KaimukiMan

        Excellent, thanks, I'm guessing it'll be a while before I cook with it, if ever, but it's nice to know it'll be more than a sentimental reminder of a late aunt and uncle who lived on Oahu for many years - unfortunately the cutting they sent me when I was a kid never sprouted, but this one's already perking up nicely under the 400W MH lamp next to the orchids and sundry other plants... maybe by the time I'm ready to cook with it the plant will be able to suffer the loss of leaves with reasonable equanimity....

      2. Ti, like banana, leaves make good wrappers, are not in any way toxic, but aren't good to eat. Taro leaves make good edible, internal wrappers.