What an amazing Indigenous culinary herb I discovered yesterday at the Mexican grocer- a zingy, very fresh, pungent plant called Papalo – or in the language spoken by the Aztecs, Papalotl, which translates to Butterfly, perhaps because the scent of the plant attracts them.
As I was looking around the produce section I bumped into an acquaintance of mine & he was holding a bunch of this plant that I couldn’t identify. It was so fragrant I could detect its powerful scent from 3 steps away. At first I mistook it for Nasturtium leaves. It packed that kind of spicy, sharp kick. I asked my friend, ‘What IS that plant??’
He responded, ‘Oh haven’t you ever had this? You should try it. It’s called papalo.’ I started asking 20 questions – and he said that you can eat it raw – and I took a leaf that he offered me while we were standing in line for the cash register. As the impact of the flavor sunk in, I realized that there were some familiar notes, and also some flavor elements that I can’t even describe – I grabbed a bunch & brought it home and started looking up info, and immediately started cooking with it. I was crazy excited over this discovery.
I made fried squash blossoms rolled in blue Native cornmeal, with a filling of rice & beans and carnitas (pork), flavored with this magnificent plant. In some quarters it is called Summer Coriander, Bolivian Coriander, and various other names. It grows wild throughout Arizona, Mexico and West Texas. How have I never heard of this plant before???
Here are a few useful links with more information & recipes.
See if you can lay hands on this amazing herb which has been used for thousands of years by Native Peoples.