Herby, Mexican Style

Strangely enough, many of the herbs I grow are never used. I like basil, but do I need eight varieties? It is interesting to taste and smell the differences but I am more inclined to use the Italian classic basil in cooking. The purple ruffles basil is a pretty colour even though it didn’t ruffle it’s leaves, not a frilly leaf in sight, but a nice addition to a salad bowl. Although there are differences in tastes, they are much milder than the Italian or Greek basil. Mrs Burn’s Lemon basil and lemon basil have much finer flavours.

For the past few years I have been growing pipiche (Porophyllum tagetoides), a Mexican herb, and last year I added papalo, (Porophyllum ruderale) with disappointing results. So I have tried again with the remainder of last year’s seeds. It’s growing better this year, possibly because it likes the heat and we missed out on that last year. 

pipiche c
Pipiche 2016

Pipiche (and it’s various spellings) is more of an end of cooking herb. It gets chopped and added to various dishes, such as salads, grain dishes like tabbouleh and has a flavour similar to tarragon. It’s medicinal uses are for bacterial infections and detoxifying the body. It’s taste is described as strong cilantro with a hint of mint and a little bit of citrus.

Papalo, also from Mexico is more like cilantro (coriander). The taste is stronger than cilantro so only a little is needed to add to a dish at the end of cooking. It is described as having a unique piquancy and complements fish, egg, salads and salsas. Of the flavours described by those who have tried it, this could be either a mix of arugula (rocket), cilantro and rue or it could be nasturtium flowers, cilantro and lime. You have to taste it to decide for yourself.

Papalo June

The flowers from both plants are virtually petalless with only slight differences in size and colour. The pods open up and reveal a little tuft of feathery seeds, just waiting to be airborne. Collecting seeds from both plants before they get blown in the wind, will reward you with a never-ending supply of plants.

Pipiche flower c

The seeds resemble those of the dandelion, the small, thin seed with the downy umbrella to help it travel, in the hope of establishing new colonies. The seed has poor germination, so you do need to sow it thickly, and once germinated, doesn’t really like it’s roots disturbed. My papalo seedling needs to go into a slightly bigger pot, so hopefully I can transfer them, without disturbing them.

The flavour comes from the little oil glands underneath the leaves of porophyllum plants, and they also help protect them from nibbling insects. I don’t think I have seen two little herbs with so many descriptions of flavour and can apparently be used as a substitute for many other herbs, so very useful plants to have.


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