Callaloo, a native West African dish, came to the Caribbean during the triangular slave trade along along the Middle Passage. Its key ingredient—the heart-shaped leaves of the taro plant, known as *Xanthosoma* on the continent—continues to exert unparalleled influence on the Caribbean diet. It forever connects the region to the reach and realities of slavery, centuries later. Sometimes a stew, sometimes a soup, callaloo is an ode to the masterful and resourceful way that enslaved Africans repurposed indigenous plant life and accessible aromatics into a deeply nourishing staple. The process of making it seethes with a simplicity that defined slave cooking: quick and straightforward with little margin for indulgence. Even today, in callaloo’s postcolonial adaptation—where ingredients like fresh crab and chopped pumpkin sometimes bulk up the dish’s vegetal base—its minimalist preparation persists. —Brigid Ransome Washington
large okra pods, stems removed, cut into small 1-inch rounds
fresh thyme, leaves removed
medium yellow onion, diced
green onions, diced
large cloves garlic, minced
allspice berries, crushed
freshly ground black pepper
whole Scotch bonnet, or orange habanero, pepper
White rice, for serving
In This Recipe
In an ample stock pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Place all of the ingredients—except the pepper and butter—into the pot. Stir to combine and place a lid over the pot.
After 7 to 10 minutes, when the ingredients are wilted, add the whole pepper to the mixture. Cover with the lid and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pepper and discard. Add the butter.
Using an immersion hand blender, puree the mixture. (If you don't have an immersion hand blender, then feel free to use a regular blender, working in batches.)
Serve hot atop fresh white rice. Or serve as an alternative to spinach dip. To serve as a soup, add 2 to 3 cups boiling water after the callaloo has been pureed (adjust salt and pepper accordingly).