Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Callaloo



I really like Callaloo. It might be the name - it sounds a bit silly and a bit like a howl. The first time I ever had it, I was in Jamaica. In Jamaica, Callaloo is practically the national dish, right after Jerk and the leafy green is extremely popular all over the Caribbean where it is cooked in a stew of the same name. Most people who eat Callaloo enjoy it in stew form or mixed into coconut rice. Both recipes are delicious. Until two years ago when I joined my CSA, I had never seen fresh Callaloo outside of Jamaica. Here in Florida we have a robust and thriving population of people from all of what we call "The Islands." These people do a good job of maintaining their rich and diverse cultures here in South Florida and our grocery stores do a fair job at stocking products from the Bahamas, Jamaica and other islands. I enjoy the Jamaican section of Publix where one can find all sorts of interesting, imported products. They sell Callaloo in cans. Canned Callaloo is as disgusting as canned spinach. I wouldn't eat it if you paid me. I have never understood why, if we have such a big population of people from the Island nations living in our area, we can't sell fresh Callaloo in the grocery stores. What's even more ridiculous is that Callaloo is a hearty crop and grows very well here. It's nutritious, keeps well and tastes good, so why is it so hard to find?

As I anxiously await the return of my CSA box in less than a month, one of the things I most look forward to is Callaloo. I like it better than collards, turnip greens, mustard greens and kale. It cooks faster and has a better flavor than most other greens I've tried. It's only a little bitter. I would describe it as a cross between spinach and collard greens. I prefer it sauteed in olive oil, fresh garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. I either enjoy it plain or I stir it into rice cooked in coconut milk.

Last week I finally got my Callaloo fix from the Bee Heaven Farm booth at the Edible Garden Festival. I can't tell you how excited I was. Since I hadn't had it in almost two years, I opted for the simple sautee. It was instant gratification.

First I pulled off all the leaves (you can eat the stems, but I don't like them as much). Then rinse them very well in a tub of water. I rinse them a few times because I find a lot of bugs and dirt in fresh greens. Then you just heat up a swirl of olive oil and throw the wet leaves in. Stir them and add some chunks of fresh garlic, sea salt and pepper to taste and some hot peppers. I have dried, but a little fresh scotch bonnet would be really good if you can manage the heat. Stiry fry until the leaves wilt and then add in about a 1/2 cup (or a little more) of water. Cook the leaves in the water for about ten minutes (stirring) or until the water cooks away. I find ten minutes is the best amount of time because the leaves get tender but not overcooked and they still retain their emerald sheen. A lot of people cook Callaloo much, much longer, but I don't like to eat food the color of Army pants. When it's done, check for seasonings and eat it up. I have to warn you though. Callaloo suffers from major shrinkage, so a gigantic bundle of raw greens will only make about one or two servings once it's cooked.

I think we should start a petition to make Publix carry fresh Callaloo. I also think the plant would make a good addition to home gardens, though I searched and searched and found it almost impossible to find Callaloo seeds for sale. Maybe Farmer Margie can tell us where she gets her seeds and give us some advice on growing it in our yards.

4 comments:

  1. http://hubpages.com/hub/Traditional-Jamaican-Recipes-Callaloo-and-Saltfish

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello,
    We are South Floridians who have fresh, quality callaloo seeds for sale, harvested from our very own crops. We too LOVE callaloo! It is one of the easiest vegetable greens to grow, and for those in South Florida, well...you will be happy to know you can grow it successfully all year long!

    Our seeds can be purchased very affordably on ebay, seller name: mommy2be252.

    We sell packets of 100+ seeds along with detailed growing instructions.

    Best regards!

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  3. Hello,

    I'm from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We're interested in purchasing Jamaican Callaloo
    seeds. Can you send us your price quote plus shipping charges.
    Looking somewhere 1000 -2000 seeds approx.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    E- mail us:
    Noeljudy@aol.com

    Thanks,
    Northern caribbean Gardener

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  4. Dear mommy2be252,
    I could not find you on e-bay. I am interested in purchasing 10 packages of callaloo seeds. Can you give me your address and the price . I will send you a postal money order for the seeds.
    Mrs. C.

    ReplyDelete