Topi tambo or Calathea allouia is a popular tuber in Trinidad and Tobago that can be usually found during the Carnival and Lenten season. Often referred to as tipi tambo by locals, this tuber has a texture similar to a water chestnut, nice and crunchy.
Topi tambo are usually grown in "patches", and according to the size, the "patch" can yield hundreds of topi tambo. These tubers look much like little egg-shaped potatoes and are borne on stalks from the underground stem-like rhizome of the plant.
Marva Sitahal is a vendor at the Chaguanas Market. This has been her trade for the past 19 years, and one of the things she is most fond of is tipi tambo.
A childhood favourite which she grows at her home, tipi tambo takes approximately six months to reach maturity, she said.
The taste is similar to corn but not as sweet. However, Sitahal says adding salt during boiling can bring out the flavour a bit. When boiled, the tough outer skin is peeled to reveal the white tuber, she added.
Selling at $25 for two pounds, Sitahal shared some insight on this tuber.
She said, "Tipi tambo can be either white or brown. I find that the brown ones are better since they tend to have a better consistency. To cook, you just have to wash them, boil them and add salt. It is simple and takes about 20 minutes."
—See Page 27