Tuesday, April 8, 2008

WE FOOD - Callaloo Nice!

By Natasha Samuels

Callaloo comes in as many varieties as there are islands in the Caribbean. Callaloo, however, has one constant - that it’s a green leafy vegetable, traditionally belonging to the Amaranth, Taro or Xanthosoma family.

In my native Jamaica, callaloo refers to the Amaranth and is typically paired with salted codfish and served with ground provisions as a Saturday or Sunday brunch dish. The leaf can also be served without meat sautéed with oil or butter, tomato and onion.

Disappearing are the days when you would walk the common or the rim of the tropical lush forest to pick wild callaloo leaves. The vegetable is now being farmed and is proving to be an emerging cash crop suitable for export from the Caribbean. In Jamaica, where the callaloo market is valued at $175 million (JMD), the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture trained and certified farmers and exporters as well as developed traceable programs and mandatory monitoring of callaloo farms and packing houses in order to establish the export market to North America.

According to Jamaica’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority, 30% of the callaloo grown on the island is sold to exporters, which is exported fresh during the high demand season that runs from November through July. 50% of callaloo grown on the island is sold to processors for canning. 95% of the canned products are exported. The remaining is sold to local consumers for consumption on the island.

Here are two recipes that you can try at home using callaloo. The first is callaloo rice and the second is callaloo soup. I was introduced to callaloo rice during one of my pilgrimages home. It’s a delicious and healthy alternative to our rice dishes and can be served with chicken, pork or beef. I’ve never personally tried the callaloo soup recipe, but the reviews all state that this is certainly a dish that man, woman and child will enjoy.

Callaloo Rice

1 cup of chopped callaloo
1 tbsp margarine
1 small finely chopped onion
1 sprig scallion chopped
2 ½ cups of water
1 lb rice
1 clove chopped garlic

Saute onion, scallion and garlic in heated margarine.
Add chopped callaloo and allow to steam until tender.
Add water and bring to a boil
Add rice. Cover and allow to cook for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Callaloo Soup

1 lb callaloo leaves chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1 onion, chopped
½ pound salt beef
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tsp. garlic (minced)
½ tsp all purpose seasoning
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 green chile pepper, whole
1 cup okra
½ pound crabmeat

Add chicken stock and callaloo leaves to a sauce pan.
Add, onion, salt beef, dried seasoning, chili and crab meat.
Cover, and simmer for 35 minutes, or until meat is tender.
Add the okra and cook for 8 minutes, or until tender
Remove the chili pepper, puree the soup in a blender of food processor.
Reheat and adjust seasonings if necessary.

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