What is Dasheen and why you should know about it
An article in Forbes magazine has highlighted the value of the dasheen plant to the Caribbean. This culture-rich root plant, which you may know as taro, kalo, or blue food, is making a re-introduction in the health and food trends.
The plant, known in recipes such as callaloo or cassava fufu, was actually historically popular for enslaved African people. Thanks to conscious eating patterns, a trend for sustainable, farm-to-table dining, and a popular demand for more diverse foods, dasheen is being added globally to people’s daily, and even fine-dining menus.
Charlene Forde, chef and owner of Melanated Vegan, spent many summers in Trinidad, where she ate dasheen and even had it as a side dish every Sunday. Trinidadian callaloo, not to be mistaken for Jamaican callaloo, is “usually made with some sort of salt meat – pigtail, salt beef or crab legs. You can eat it over dumplings or provision – boiled plantain, sweet potatoes, yams, green bananas, and cassava” she said.
The root is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals such as B6, C, E, potassium and manganese, and the leaves are high in vitamins A and C. Both contain high-quality protein and are excellent sources of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron. They also carry anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, making this plant of great nutritional value whether steamed, boiled, roasted, or mashed. With its leaves resembling spinach, it can be used in a variety of dishes from soups and stews, to spanakopita and even tortellini.
Dasheen is also environmentally-friendly, having little to no impact on land, forest, air or soil during cultivation or production. Long growing times are good for maintaining high-levels of soil carbon, promoting soil health and climate change mitigation, plus the plant is climate-resistant; it can flourish during floods, as well as draughts. The entire plant can be used, reducing waste, meaning it has a low environmental footprint and great value in terms of food security.
More globally, dasheen is referred to as the “staff of life.” In Hawaii, it is used for its medicinal properties, where it’s also believed that it has the greatest life force of all foods. It has also been considered a strategic crop for development in Jamaica and has been praised as their MVP – Most Valuable Produce.
Charlene recently made vegan callaloo soup for her New Year’s Eve dinner, as well as for her final exam in culinary school. She said her chef had never tasted anything like it before and loved it! Fortunately, she shared her exquisite recipe with us!
- 12 dasheen leaves washed and chopped
- 7 stalks of okra (diced)
- 1/2 cup cubed pumpkin
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup chopped leek
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 5 cups mushroom stalk
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper
- Salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- Add grapeseed oil and heat over medium-high heat and sauté leek, carrots, and pumpkin for five minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients, except for the scotch bonnet pepper.
- Turn heat to medium and bring to a boil for 20 minutes, allowing dasheen and pumpkin to cook through.
- Add scotch bonnet pepper and boil for another 15 mins. Make sure not to overcook the veggies.
- Remove pepper.
- Using an immersion blender, puree all ingredients and add salt to taste.
- Serve with a drizzle of coconut chili oil.
Enjoy! Turn up the heat in your kitchen and have fun cooking.
Now that you (and I) have thorough knowledge of what dasheen is, we can all dash to find it! I’m trying No-Frills or Food Basics, but let me know if you find it elsewhere.
P.S. I was also inspired by this yummy dessert recipe featuring grated dasheen root, which could easily be made vegan. Stay tuned for the update!
I'm a creative, passionate individual with an eye for a good story. Find me on my best days drinking coffee, listening to the summer rain, reading about the next wellness trend, or learning about Toronto's cultural hotspots.