Callaloo

History:

Callaloo (sometimes calaloo or kallaloo) is a popular Caribbean dish originating in West Africa served in different variants across the Caribbean. Callaloo first turns up in Jamaican records as early as 1696. Callaloo is widely known throughout the Caribbean and has a distinctively Caribbean origin, created by enslaved Africans using ideas of the indigenous people along with both African (okra) and indigenous (Xanthosoma) plants.

 

Characteristics:

Callaloo is a leafy, spinach-like vegetable. The variety of callaloo Amaranthus viridis, better known as Chinese spinach or Indian kale, should not be confused with the callaloo found in the eastern Caribbean, which refers to the leaves of the dasheen plant.

 

Food uses:

Callaloo is typically prepared as one would prepare turnip or collard greens. The main ingredient is a leaf vegetable, traditionally either amaranth (known by many local names, including callaloo or bhaaji), taro or xanthosoma. Both are known by many names, including callaloo, coco, tannia, bhaaji, or dasheen bush. Because the leaf vegetable used in some regions may be locally called “callaloo” or “callaloo bush”, some confusion can arise among the vegetables and with the dish itself. Outside of the Caribbean, water spinach is occasionally used. Trinidadians, Grenadians and Dominicans primarily use taro/dasheen bush for callaloo, although Dominicans also use water spinach. Jamaicans, Belizeans and Guyanese on the other hand use the name callaloo to refer to amaranth, and use it in a plethora of dishes and also a drink (‘callaloo juice’). The ‘callaloo’ made in Jamaica is different from the ‘callaloo’ made in Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada in terms of main ingredient (the leaf used) and other ingredients included. African Americans invented a version of the original West African dish known as collard greens. Trinidadians have embraced this dish from their ancestors and over time have added ingredients such as coconut milk to modify its flavour. Callaloo is mostly served as a side dish, for Trinidadians, Bajans, and Grenadians it usually accompanies rice, macaroni pie, and a meat of choice. In Guyana it is made in various ways without okra. In Jamaica, callaloo is often combined with saltfish and is usually seasoned with tomatoes, onion, escallion, scotch bonnet peppers and margarine/cooking oil and steamed. It is often eaten with roasted breadfruit, boiled green bananas and dumplings and it is a popular breakfast dish. In Grenada, callaloo is steamed with garlic, onion and coconut milk and often eaten as a side dish. Grenadians also stir or blend the mixture until it has a smooth consistent texture. In the Virgin Islands, callaloo is served with a dish of fungee on the side. In Guadeloupe, “calalou au crabe” (crab callaloo) is a traditional Easter dish.

 

Health & nutrition values:

Callaloo has many nutrients and the nutritive value varies, depending on the state in which it is eaten, whether raw or cooked. The potassium helps to lower or maintain blood pressure and regulate heartbeat. Persons with kidney disease should not eat raw or cooked callaloo because it is a potassium-rich food. The calcium makes strong bones and teeth and aids in the clotting of blood. After seven months of age, callaloo should be a part of the infant’s diet. The fibre in callaloo helps to form bulk in the faeces, makes a person feel less hungry after eating, slows the absorption of glucose in the cells, traps excess fat in the intestines and lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol. These functions of fibre in callaloo help to reduce the risk of obesity, control blood-sugar levels and lower the risk of heart disease. Raw callaloo is an excellent source of vitamin C and should not be overcooked so that this delicate vitamin can be retained. The protein content is higher in cooked callaloo, but is not a high quality protein. Therefore, callaloo should be added to peas, beans, fish, chicken or meat to improve the protein quality of a meal. Cooked callaloo provides more iron than raw callaloo. However, to get the iron in the blood, callaloo should be consumed with fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, such, tomato, oranges or West Indian cherries. Due to the high iron content of callaloo, Grenadians douse it down with a fruit drink high in Vitamin C especially as Iron could only be absorbed in the presence of Vitamin C. The vitamin C helps to pull the iron from the callaloo into the blood to prevent anaemia (weak blood). Callaloo should not be consumed with milk or dairy products because the calcium in the milk prevents the iron from getting in the blood and increases the risk of anaemia.

 

References/Bibliography:

Callaloo Wikipedia Page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callaloo

What Is Callaloo? http://latinfood.about.com/od/saladsdressings/a/what-is-callaloo.htm

Callaloo: More Than Just Iron http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131113/health/health1.html