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  • The naming of Callaloo and Amaranth

    It seems difficult to establish whether the term Callaloo is used for a particular amaranth or is simply interchangeable with the term amaranth.

    It seems to be generally accepted that the term Callaloo is applied to varieties of Amaranthus tricolor, that it's used for amaranth grown for leaf consumption rather than grain or flower, that it’s Jamaican in origin and that the word is also connected with a Jamaican dish. But what is less clear - at least to me - is which varieties to call Callaloo and which to call Amaranth.

    My other confusion is over colour. ‘Tricolor’ implies presumably that originally the plant was multi-coloured. Is it that selection has led to many varieties which have single coloured leaves?

    Also is the name Callaloo used normally only of green-leaved forms? HSL occasionally has reddish-leaved forms so perhaps not

    Real Seeds have a green-leaved Callaloo and say that normally Callaloo doesn’t grow very well in UK. Does that tally with general experience, ie that only their form responds well to our climate?

    So lots of questions in my mind. Or perhaps I should just accept that there’s a glorious variation in varieties grown and names used!

  • #2
    Callaloo is primarily a dish of the West Indies and the 'Callaloo plant' used depends on the tradition of each island nation.

    In Trinidad & Tobago, dasheen is used. In Jamaica amaranth is used, and the recipe is very different. Being of Trinidadian heritage I must state for the record that the Trini recipe is superior but dasheen is hard to come by over here so other greens may be used instead. I believe nearly every island makes callaloo, including Francophone nations.

    So I wouldn't read too much into deciphering the difference between callaloo and amaranth - the terms only overlap in the places that use amaranth greens in the Callaloo dish.

    Comment


    • Galina
      Galina commented
      Editing a comment
      Confused. I thought dasheen is taro and the leaves are poisonous and a different species to amaranth.

    • Jang
      Jang commented
      Editing a comment
      My understanding - such as it is! - is that it is indeed a different species from amaranth. So Callaloo in Trinidad is distinctive (something of a national dish I think) and very different from the Callaloo made in Jamaica and other islands.

    • triffid
      triffid commented
      Editing a comment
      Dasheen is Colocasia esculenta, it's a staple in the tropics. Different plants are called 'callaloo' depending on whether they are the primary source of greens for the callaloo dish.

  • #3
    Thanks triffid. Really good to have that first hand knowledge.

    So perhaps if a particular amaranth has the name callaloo it simply tells us that it’s likely to have been traditionally used for the dish somewhere in Jamaica or by people of Jamaican heritage. The naming is not to do with distinctive features as much as the history of the variety.
    Might that imply that the Real Seeds description ( below) of the callaloo they offer is misleading for being so specific?
    They also suggest that amaranths generally aren’t easy to grow in UK. That doesn’t apply to two types I’ve grown. One is a beautiful deep purplish red from A4A seed circle, named Polish amaranth which has probably gone nowhere near a callaloo dish! It thrives and self-seeds with happy abandon.
    It is the proper 'calalloo' species, and we were really happy to get it, because in general real Calalloo doesn't do well in the UK, but this variety has obviously been reselected for our conditions. It grew really well, even in the awful summer of 2012.
    Last edited by Jang; 14-01-2021, 06:20.

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    • #4
      The Caribbean community in the allotment call the plants calalloo and the amaranth is from asia. I grows very well in the england the information is incorrect the timing is everything it's not completely frost hardy, it's cut and come again kind of plant bit like lettuce. Cut it down it will regrow couple of times before it goes to seed or left alone will produce seeds. In china when they make rice they will add amaranth seeds to the rice say 70% rice to 30% amaranth seeds. The seeds have same nutrients to quinoa without the superfood tag.

      The photos one from the Caribbean community, the seeds came from one of the plot holders going on holiday there brought seeds back. The other photo was me experimenting from a video I saw from growing veg between slabs or bricks.

      Comment


      • #5
        Thanks Clumsy. Are you saying that the callaloo grown by the Jamaican plot holders isn’t amaranth at all?

        Your second photo looks very like the amaranth I grow, except colour, whereas the first is perhaps not clearly the same. I didn’t quite understand whether you used the same seeds in your paving slab experiment as the Caribbean plot holder used in the first photo

        Comment


        • clumsy
          clumsy commented
          Editing a comment
          Two different types of amaranth one from asia the other from Caribbean I think Barbados was the place he went on holiday.

      • #6
        Clumsy's first picture looks a lot like Amaranthus viridis. I would agree that the Real Seeds description is misleading as there is no single species utilised in callaloo. But in a country where it is generally believed that Jamaica = Caribbean, I understand how they came to that conclusion.

        I'll just paste this passage from Wikipedia as it breaks down the differences in the leaves used and overall recipes:

        There are many variants across the Caribbean, depending on the availability of local vegetables. The main ingredient is an indigenous leaf vegetable, traditionally either amaranth (known by many local names including callaloo, but not Spinach or bhaaji due to taste and texture), taro (known by many local names, including dasheeen bush, callaloo bush, callaloo, or bush) or Xanthosoma (known by many names, including coco & tannia).

        Since the leaf
        vegetable used in some regions may be locally called "callaloo" or "callaloo bush" "dasheen Leaves", some confusion can arise among the vegetables and with the dish itself. This, as is the case with many other Caribbean dishes, is a remnant of West African cuisine


        Callaloo in Trinidad & Tobago and other eastern Caribbean countries is generally made with okra and dasheen or water spinach Ipomoea aquatica. There are many variations of callaloo which may include coconut milk, crab, conch, Caribbean lobster, meats, pumpkin, chili peppers, and other seasonings such as chopped onions and garlic. The ingredients are added and simmered down to a somewhat stew-like consistency. When done, callaloo is dark green in colour and is served as a side dish which may be used as a gravy for other food.

        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. Callaloo soup comprising callaloo, okra (optional), dumplings, ground provision like yam, potato (sweet and "Irish") chicken and beef is traditionally eaten on Saturdays. It is also one of the most important ingredient in Oil Down, the Island's National Dish comprising steamed breadfruit, callaloo, dumplings, ground provision, carrot and several varieties of meat--salt fish, chicken, pork. All of this is steamed in coconut milk and saffron powder. Salt and pepper is added. 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
        .
        Apparently pokeweed and nightshades are used too. Essentially the callaloo plant was whatever edible green was readily available. Much of West Indian cuisine originated as the food of the enslaved; one had make the best of what they had.

        I believe the spinach referenced in the first paragraph is Malabar spinach Basella alba, and bhaaji is a type of amaranth or lambsquarter(?). Trinidad's population is about 1/3 of East Indian descent so there are many South Asian plants and dishes, but I'm not familiar with all of them.

        If you want to make your own Trini-style callaloo it's quite passable with European spinach, flavour wise, though if you can't get your hands on okra the texture isn't right. The Jamaican recipe is likely easier to recreate faithfully with ingredients available in the UK.

        Comment


        • Galina
          Galina commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks triffid for all the info.

        • clumsy
          clumsy commented
          Editing a comment
          Basically the dish use's green leaf plus the stem is also used at the same time. You can substitute with spinach leaves or kale can be also used. We mix leafs depending on what is available.

      • #7
        The photo left bag is Caribbean one the right bag asian one. Slight different colour the Caribbean one is dark green and the asian one two tone colour. We are talking about amaranth?

        Taro leaves which have grown before (trying to find the photo) also called elephant ears, we call the roots arbi but also two varieties eddoes is the other both roots can be brought from asian shops,

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        • #8
          Okay found the photo's. The reddish amaranth I grew before. The second photo in the middle are the green leave one with the seeds I don't have a close up photo. The third is arbi or taro leaves plants I grew.

          Comment


          • clumsy
            clumsy commented
            Editing a comment
            Greenhouse.Needs lots of water you have to remember that. Keep cutting the leaves the size you require because the leaves get really big as they grow plus more keep coming. Very easy to grow.

          • Galina
            Galina commented
            Editing a comment
            Growing red amaranth this year too. Slugs have decimated our lettuces, but these red amaranth leaves really do fill the gaps in the salad bowl together with rocket and at last the first tomatoes and cucumbers. Glad I sowed some.

          • clumsy
            clumsy commented
            Editing a comment
            We cook the amaranth leaves and stem. Never used it in salad, we also cook the rocket leaves as well sometimes eat them raw.

        • #9
          Great to have close experience of both Asian and Caribbean culture so well represented.
          So perhaps one simple rule of thumb could be that if an amaranth variety comes to the UK from the west then callaloo is likely to be in its name and if it comes from the east it’s more likely to be called amaranth.

          Good luck with the possibility of growing dasheen, Triffid.

          Comment


          • clumsy
            clumsy commented
            Editing a comment
            Yeah I would go with that the west it's callaloo and east amaranth. Very easy to grow grown most types of them from red,orange/green and even the multi coloured one. Great mixer of people in the allotments. I get given seeds to try because they think I'm green fingered. Once I've grown it they know I'll pass the knowledge back to them so they can grow it.

            Triffid if you need the tubers for dasheen I could post you some or if anyone else is interested I could also do the same.

          • triffid
            triffid commented
            Editing a comment
            That's a pretty fair conclusion, for leaf amaranths.
            Thanks very much clumsy, I'll pm you.

        • #10
          Got a better photo of Jamaican callaloo today. Click image for larger version

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          • #11
            Such a good thread

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            • #12
              I'll be thinking of growing these next year the blood test shows for my mum she has developed microcytic anaemia plus albuminura. I've asked the plotholder if I could have loads so I could freeze them for winter plus use some fresh.

              Comment


              • triffid
                triffid commented
                Editing a comment
                Hopefully an abundance of greens will help your mum with iron and folate. Are you working on your plot again this autumn or not until next year?

              • clumsy
                clumsy commented
                Editing a comment
                Maybe next year everything is still up in the air.

            • #13
              Boiling the leaves and stems for freezing to be used in winter. This way it used less space in freezer.

              Comment


              • clumsy
                clumsy commented
                Editing a comment
                If you google saag recipes you'll get the idea. The base of the recipe like spices is the same but you can use any green leave's,kale,spinach,swish chard,callaloo/amaranth,mustard,rocket or mix the leaves together if you don't have enough of one type.. Plus you can add chickpeas or potatoes to the recipe. Never tried it when it goes to seed but have used the seeds in biriyani rice 80% rice 20% amaranth seeds. In china they mix the rice and amaranth also.

              • Jang
                Jang commented
                Editing a comment
                Thanks for the saag clue.

                I have had the impression that amaranth seed is extracted from different strains or species of amaranth.Certainly I haven’t found it easy to get much seed from the amaranth I’ve grown.

                Have you,Clumsy, or anyone, had success with harvesting cooking quantities of amaranth seed from your own amaranth?

              • clumsy
                clumsy commented
                Editing a comment
                I never grew enough to get seeds worth cooking with. Different type of seeds. I would say black seeds for leave production, white seeds plants for seed production.

            • #14
              Would drying the stems and leaves work too?
              Perhaps to add in powder form?

              Comment


              • clumsy
                clumsy commented
                Editing a comment
                It won't work the recipe requires the leaves to be fresh. But we do dry fenugreek leaves but thats another plant altogether.

              • jayb
                jayb commented
                Editing a comment
                I did wonder.
                I grew fenugreek in the polytunnel several years ago and oh my what a delicious aroma the plants had, worth growing just for that, plus they were growing next to coriander, the combination was just lovely. Sadly I don't much enjoy fenugreek in cooked dishes or at least I haven't learned how to add it in and get the best flavour combinations out.

            • #15
              I was given eight different amaranth strains to try for comparison this year. They’d all been grown in the London area, mostly on allotments. Two or three were apparently the same, two of the reds and two of the greens. One that I’ve grown myself, as Polish amaranth, from the A4A seed exchange about three years ago was unique in that selection in that it was shorter, finer and more intensely red. One of the greens had a thicker and more branching habit. Otherwise there was a similar growth habit in the other six except that one produced flowers noticeably earlier than the others.

              Apart from enjoying the rather lovely flowers, I’m not sure what to do with them now. I love the intense red of the Polish amaranth (in the foreground of the first picture but out of shot in the second) but have enough seeds to grow that again. I guess I could see what mix I might get from allowing free pollination amongst the others and saving the seed.

              Click image for larger version

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