In the United States, I have grown callaloo in my very first garden in Philadelphia. However, it was a species of amaranth grown as an ornamental plant (and edible seeds), while callaloo in Jamaica, Amaranthus viridis, is cultivated for its young and tender leaves/stems.
Here in Jamaica, callaloo is easy to grow, doesn't mind poor soils, and you can reap it in just six weeks! Collecting seed is simple (the seed is a part of the plant that I would like to experiment baking with), and the leaves are often compared to spinach. For a plant that is so easy to grow, callaloo is full of nutrition; it is high in vitamin A and vitamin K, as well as a good source of iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
Steamed callaloo (often with saltfish) is the traditional way of preparing this leafy green, sometimes served with bread, yam, breadfruit or boiled green banana. The next three pictures are callaloo meals that my host mother prepared for me while I was training:
I rarely cook callaloo in the traditional Jamaican way and instead take myself out to breakfast every other week to let the experienced Jamaican prepare the steamed callaloo (they just do it better)! At home, I like to find other ways to add callaloo to dishes. For inspiration, I have looked up a lot of spinach recipes where callaloo is easily substituted. This is what I came up with:
Callaloo Egg Bake
I used this recipe as a base, but subbed callaloo for spinach, and added some cayenne pepper---simple and delicious, plus you have breakfast ready to go for the next 3-4 days. The only proper way to eat this dish is smoldered with hot sauce and served with a huge cup of black coffee. I highly recommend this recipe!
Callaloo Green Smoothie
Smoothies aren't something I often go out of my way to make, because I rather use my callaloo in a savory dish full of other vegetables, but this one is a tasty and filling treat.
- 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
- 1/2 Cup water
- 1 - 1/2 Cups Ice
- 1 large ripe banana
- Two Handfuls Callaloo
- Small to medium piece of ginger root
Blend up and enjoy!
Callaloo and Pumpkin Curry
I loosely based this curry off of this recipe. I had to buy some slightly expensive spices to make this correctly, but they could easily omitted from the recipe (just use curry powder..). You could throw in chickpeas, as well! This would be best served over rice, but I was too lazy to make rice.
I will continue to find ways to add callaloo to my meals, as it may very well be my favorite vegetable out here. How do you like to eat your callaloo?