Callaloo is deeply rooted in Caribbean history. Its origins date back to the 16th century when enslaved Africans used local plants and ready-made flavors to create a masterful meal from what appears to be nothing. Callaloo is so important in Trinidad and Tobago, where I grew up, that it is considered the national dish of the Twin Islands – even without an official government name. Callaloo has many variations in the Caribbean and its diaspora, but the one I grew up with uses taro leaves, okra, pumpkin, coconut milk, onions, garlic, and scotch bonnet peppers. My version uses my mother’s recipe as a starting point, with a few tweaks. Since taro can be difficult to source in the US, I like to use a mix of spinach and cabbage greens – the latter serves as a nod to the south (my current home) and its rich black culinary traditions. And when pumpkin isn’t available, I like to use butternut squash, which makes for a strong, delicious proxy.
Read more about Brigid’s recipe and how she learned to love the dish here.