The true origins of Callaloo are a matter of debate. For Trinidadians, Callaloo is a component of their national meal, Crab, and Callaloo, which was invented by African slaves during the Spanish colonization of the island around 1530.
It means that, while the meal is a national favourite on both islands of Trinidad and Tobago, its origins date back well before the arrival of African slaves in 1510. Furthermore, documentation from the 1400s chronicling the cuisine of Africans by English and Dutch explorers show Callaloo as a common element in recipes, particularly those using spinach.
The triangular slave trade along the Middle Passage brought callaloo, a native West African cuisine, to the Caribbean. Its main ingredient, the heart-shaped leaves of the taro plant, known in the Caribbean as Xanthosoma, continues to have a huge impact on Caribbean cuisine. It forever links the land to the reach and realities of slavery, even though it was centuries ago. Callaloo, which is often a stew and sometimes a soup, is a tribute to how enslaved Africans repurposed local plant life and readily available aromatics into a very nutritious staple.
The method of preparation reeks of the simplicity that typified slave cooking: quick and basic, with little room for error. Even in postcolonial adaptations of callaloo, where additives like fresh crab and chopped pumpkin frequently bulk up the dish’s vegetative basis, the dish’s basic technique remains.
The Jamaican Variant
Cooked with onion, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, and Scotch bonnet pepper, Jamaican Callaloo is a famous local staple green leafy vegetable. For a tropical breakfast, lunch, or supper, this healthful side dish is ideal.
Callaloo is generally eaten with steamed fish, rice, or fried breadfruit, and is prepared with onion, tomatoes, green onions, Scotch bonnet pepper, and thyme. It can also be prepared with salt fish and served with steamed fish, rice, or fried breadfruit.
It’s also used as a stuffing for a savory pastry called a patty, such as my Jamaican Lentil Patties, and it’s even turned into a drink.
Cookin time: 15-20 minutes.
- 4 cups callaloo (finely-chopped)
- 1 tbsp olive oil, or coconut oil
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 green onions (chopped)
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 medium tomato (chopped)
- Salt according to taste
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
How to cook Jamaican Callaloo?
- First, take the callaloo and remove dead leaves, debris, or any hard stalks. You can also add salt and water to the callaloo pot to remove debris easily.
- Thoroughly rinse the callaloo and clean the outer layer of the callaloo stems.
- Finely chop the leaves and stem of the callaloo and keep it aside.
- Suite onions along with garlic, spring onion, thyme, tomato in oil.
- Now, add chopped callaloo, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cover the pot and allow it to steam.
- Add water accordingly keeping in mind that the callaloo will release its own water as it is being cooked.
- Simmer for few minutes and serve while hot.
Note: Although it is usually served with dumplings and boiled plantains, you can also use pan-fried plantains to add a different taste to your dish.
Health benefits of callaloo:
Leafy greens being the primary ingredient, callaloo offers many health benefits. It provides up to four times more calcium and twice the iron as compared to broccoli. Immunity boosting vitamin C along with Vitamin B improves your energy levels, brain functions, and metabolism.