Why the Tobago Blue Food Festival is considered among the world's best
Posted Nov 20, 2020
At first glance, you may wonder if a festival dedicated to a vegetable is worth a visit, but when you consider that it’s been rated as one the world’s best food festivals by CNN, it’s safe to say that Tobago’s Blue Food Festival is nothing short of a gastronomical adventure.
Described as heaven for foodies, Tobago Blue Food Festival offers a unique twist on the typical culinary event where the local staple dasheen, or taro, is the star. Dasheen is called 'Blue Food' by locals as some versions of the root vegetable turn varying shades of blue and indigo when cooked.
Held in October, the annual culinary festival is a well-balanced serving of innovation, creativity, community, and of course, food!
The Blue Food Festival initially began with the rural village L’Anse Fourmi as a community-based project sponsored by the then Department of Tourism in an effort to foster a link between agriculture and tourism following discussion with village council members. At the time, there was a heightened consciousness among villagers about creating something of their own, “we thing” as the local parlance goes. Residents came up with the concept as a village and that year saw a modest turnout of 70-100 people from the area.
They were met with heightened excitement when the Tobago Blue Food Festival kicked off in 1997. L’Anse Fourmi residents opened their homes where they also sold the dasheen-delicacies to visitors. Various points throughout the village provided activities for visitors while the L’Anse Fourmi Recreational grounds served as the main entertainment hub.
With a natural neighborly inclination, the L’Anse Fourmi village council invited two single mothers from the nearby Blood Bay community to participate and reap the benefits.
A few years later the festival would outgrow the main stage as well as the supply of tasty dasheen dishes that the L’Anse Fourmi vendors provided. It was suggested that the other two nearby villages – Bloody Bay and Parlatuvier - be included to assist with the demand for produce.
The festival quickly grew and turned into a major island-wide event with visitors and locals from across the island flocking to Bloody Bay to experience the creatively scrumptious delights.
While most might consider dasheen to be a one-dimensional vegetable, the festival has allowed chefs and those who love to cook to come up with some truly out-of-the-box dishes, desserts and even drinks made using this "blue" vegetable, the perfect event for any foodies looking for something new (and blue!) to try.
The festival fostered the invention of dasheen flour, a healthier alternative to white flour. Dasheen flour, in turn, has been used to create other dishes including dasheen fritters, dasheen drops, dasheen banana bread, and the ever-popular doubles! It's also featured in other dishes and desserts including toffee, ice cream, chutneys and pepper sauces, and even wine.
Dasheen possesses a wealth of nutritional composition, making it the perfect ingredient for foodies to indulge while reaping the root’s health benefits. Studies have found that it’s high in dietary fiber, iron, and potassium. It’s a rich source of Vitamins K, C and E and has even been proven to aid those with Celiac disease.
Over the years the festival has reinforced Bloody Bay’s sense of community and has seen many returns re-invested back into the community. It has inspired a recipe book. Yzanne Chance, dubbed the Blue Food Queen with over 25 Blue Food Festival titles, published "Taste of Tobago: Blue Food Recipe Book", the first book of its kind to feature only blue food-inspired dishes.
There’s a mystique around the festival and around the vegetable itself. While most people may think “what else is there to be done with this vegetable” for Tobagonians, it’s a matter of what can’t be done?
While the festival could not be held in its usual sense this year, the Tobago Festivals Commission held a virtual version of the event. Visit Tobago Festivals on Facebook and Instagram to discover all things Blue Food including recipes and food tutorials.