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It’s all about the dasheen in Tobago
Once a year three villages in Tobago join together to celebrate the dasheen plant in a festival called “Blue Food Festival”. What is dasheen? And What is blue food? Dasheen is a tuber plant which looks like a sweet potato meets a coconut.
The nickname “blue food” comes from the colour which appears when the dasheen is cooked. Both the leaves and the tuber are used in cooking. The tuber is a type of taro, which you can find in the UK and you can buy the leaves here too – look out for callaloo tins in the Caribbean section of your local supermarket (or online).
Not only is the Blue Food Festival here to celebrate dasheen, but also the cooking of dasheen. I met with Chef Debra Sardinha Metivier, who is the head judge at the festival, to find out more.
Debra explained that the three villages of L’Anse Fourmi, Bloody Bay and Parlatuvier come together each year to cook dasheen in different ways from making cakes to wine. The dishes are cooked by the villagers and not by professional cooks. This is proper home cooking and a celebration of Tobagan heritage. Dasheen is a plant which links everyone in Tobago. It can be found in almost everyone’s garden and has a long history in the country since its introduction from Africa.
It was time to visit the stalls and try out some of the blue food. In addition to the dasheen there was stewed meat of all varieties from chicken to agouti (a rodent similar to a guinea pig) to iguana alongside accompaniments of ground provisions (the name given to an assortment of sides including plantain).
I picked two meats – goat and iguana. Seemingly iguana is abundant, for how much longer though?
An interesting taste, chicken-like but with lots of bones. I’m not convinced that it would be worth the hunting and cooking!
Back to the dasheen – it could also be found in cakes, ice cream and punch at the festival. The cake tasted very moist and a bit like banana bread. The dasheen punch tasted like a liquidised Indian rice pudding being a creamy nutmeg and cinnamon tasting concoction.
By this point in the day, the event was in full swing. The bars were busy and on the stage music provided a background beat to some well-earned ‘liming’. (Click to find out about liming).
Bloody Bay Recreation Grounds, Tobago