2024 Food Garden

Due to a bad back (injury?), spring gardening will be greatly reduced. A great many projects are still going on

Best wishes!

While a bunch of different greens can be used to make it

I think I recall you sharing that, but still didn’t realize that! I saw someone call chard calaloo on a cooking show recently, and then did the same myself. I suppose there’s more to it than that . I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for a source of the “real” thing.

Callaloo, being a dish rather than a plant, can be made with a lot of different plants, even in the Caribbean. I’ve heard of it being made with Taro, Belembe, Amaranth and even a tropical Pokeweed, Phytolacca. Using chard is a new one on me!

I never thought of it that way! I guess I thought this was “thee” way to cook a tender green called calaloo, for which spinach was usually substituted.

Thank you for that! I’m thinking my in-laws know that, so I will refrain from pointing that out to them. :grin:

This was interesting.

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As you may know, many Caribbean names are “flexible”; e.g. Scotch Bonnet or Seasoning peppers can refer to many different types of peppers. I suspect that’s also true when the leaves of “Dasheen” or “Taro” are used. True Taro makes a starchy, edible corm, as does Malanga. Because of the stinging crystals, these leaves need MUCH longer cooking times. Belembe doesn’t make a swollen starchy corm; only the leaves are eaten.

Like many Aroids, it’s difficult to tell these apart by casual looking; one needs to dig into botanical descriptions; that is, if you’re outside of areas where you can just ask a neighbor for a plant or two. I saw Belembe growing as a landscape plant, on the walkway to a restaurant in Grenada, the Callaloo. Their namesake dish was delicious.

Greens, by themselves, are often … meh. It’s always fun to see how different cultures and cooks tinker with their flavors and make something tasty.

One of the least boring greens is Acmella oleracea, (syn. Spilanthes oleracea, S. acmella), commonly called “Buzz Buttons”, or “Electric Daisy”. The foliage and especially the flowers cause a tingling, semi-numbing sensation, leading to yet another name: “Toothache Plant”. The cooked greens are part of the national dish of Madagascar, Romazava. I’ve made a knockoff of the dish, using beef, Zebu meat being hard to find here! I mixed the Acmella with Malabar Spinach and New Zealand Spinach. It was worth making again.

Mixed with milder greens, Acmella makes a great potherb. If you nibble on a flower, then drink plain water, it tastes like a citrusy, carbonated beverage! The seeds are tiny, but the plant grows quickly and enjoys hot weather. It forms a thick mat, with thimble-shaped flowers poking above the foliage. The type I’ve grown has yellow flowers with a red center, very ornamental. Seeds are readily available.

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I’ve also seen them called Sichuan Buttons.

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The last time there was a callaloo discussion here, it reminded me of how “saag” in India means a specific green, but also just “greens”, and the eponymous dish can also be just one green (mustard) or a whole mix, depending on who, how, and when.

Given the Indian-Caribbean connection, I wonder if there is any common background. The ingredients and prep are suspiciously similar!

ETA: Of course there is! @shrinkrap had linked this before and I missed it
“Callaloo is a leafy green sometimes called bhajgee”

“Bhaji” is the marathi word for saag (which is hindi/punjabi) and means both “greens” – but also more specifically, in season, either amaranth or taro / colocasia or specific regional choices.

Why was I wondering about a connection given the shared history… this sometimes tiny world we live in :woman_facepalming:t2: :grinning:

Wednesday night on Top Chef Michelle won with Saag Paneer made with collard greens. There was talk online that contestants are more willing to experiment with “Indian” dishes without Padma there.

Besides Colonialism? :thinking: :blush:

(post deleted by author)

I just did a “blog” post about that for Master Gardeners!

That’s shared history. Displacement of peoples. How food travels.

Yes! I am always intrigued by that. Trinidad and roti especially! I have so much to learn.

@Saregama , it took me a minute to catch up with you!

Yesterday, at Mustard’s in Napa.

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Ready for their close up!

Dwarf tomato project seedlings , Principle Borghese seedlings

Aji Amarillo and Scotch Bonnet seedlings

Poblano and Italian sweet pepper seedlings


Yes, and I bet they could stand-in for Sichuan pepper, if one had to substitute. They have a very similar numbing/tingling effect.

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Those seedlings look fabulous! It’s quite the farm developing.

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Callaloo is synonymous with Amaranth, among people I know, and at the nurseries in Canada


I don’t think of it as the dish, I think of it as the green/ the ingredient.

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First and foremost, it is a dish, globally. Scroll down for the long list of greens used to make it. Much later in time (I’m old enough to have witnessed this), varieties of vegetable leaf amaranth were named “Callaloo”. These varieties typically have large leaves with a reddish splash in the center, “Red Callaloo” and those with plain leaves, “Green Callaloo”. These leafy vegetable types likely originated in Asia, whereas grain types were developed in the Americas. Applying the name callaloo to (leafy) amaranth became an easy way to separate grain and vegetable types, understanding both make edible foliage and grain.

Applying the name Callaloo only to amaranth is a specialized use of the word (at this point, a synonym), since the dish can be made with a wide variety of greens, especially in the Caribbean, where the word has been in use since at least the 1600s, likely brought to Jamaica via West African slaves. Basically, people used what could grow well in their locations, and added options for which elements went into the dish.

The Callaloo I had in Grenada and Carriacou was made with Xanthosoma and pureed into a. smooth, thick soup. Other forms of the dish are more chunky.

What I do not know is, before the slave trade, what were the W. Africans using for their “kalúlu”. Did they have a native amaranth? Was it one of the nightshades? Was it something else? I’ve scoured old references, including L.H. Bailey “The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture”, 1900, and have no clues. (This is something botany-nerds do in their spare time.)

Now, it’s hard to tell, as amaranth, and other edible green species are all over the planet. Many edible-greens seeds traveled hundreds of years ago in the ballast of ships, which was soil and rocks, unloaded before cargo was added to replace the weight needed to keep the ships upright. Countless “weeds” crossed the oceans this way. Stowaways!


I made a mistake.
I mistakenly thought Amaranth was the English word for dasheen/ taro. I have grown green amaranth and red Amaranth in the garden.

I realize dasheen/ taro and amaranth are distinct.

It is dasheen that I associate as being synonymous with calaloo when calaloo used as an ingredient or descriptor in a fritter or a soup.

I also have spent time in Grenada. I have had the calaloo soup.

It’s cold here! 40-50’s f during the day! I am using the heater in the greenhouse for the first time ever!

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