Ingredient of the Week: Callaloo
Probably the biggest misconception about Callaloo is that it’s the name of the green leafy plant used to make the dish of the same name. The correct name of the plant grown in Jamaica is actually amaranth but, yes, in Jamaica (and most of the Caribbean) it is better known as callaloo.
When I was living in Jamaica a lot of people grew “callaloo” in their yards, including my father in law. With lots of watering it grows fast like a weed, so it makes a handy green to have around. Fresh callaloo is generally steamed or sauteed, but in some places they make callaloo juice. Not something that appeals to me, but I’m sure it’s very healthy for you.
Unless you grow it yourself it’s hard to find fresh callaloo outside the Caribbean. However, it is available canned at West Indian or tropical grocers, which is usually what I use. Canned callaloo is already cooked, so it’s simply a matter of warming it up with the seasonings.
Callaloo, the dish, is known all over the Caribbean where it’s cooked in similar ways. In Jamaica Callaloo with Saltfish is usually seasoned with tomatoes, onions and scotch bonnet peppers. It is often eaten with roasted breadfruit, Boiled Green Bananas and Dumplings, and it is a popular breakfast dish. We also use callaloo to make soups, like Pepperpot, and today it’s even used as a filling for vegetarian Jamaican patties.
Callaloo made in Trinidad and Tobago uses okra and coconut milk to make an entirely different dish with a different taste and consistency. While African Americans have collard greens, their own version of the original West African dish. Any way you cook it, callaloo is a delicious savory dish worth trying.