used in Mexican cooking and folk medicine include both Indian plants known
since pre-hispanic times and herbs that have arrived via Spanish, French
or other influence.
A good number of the hard-to-find plants are extremely adaptable to North
Sunny annual. Many varieties with flavors ranging from lemony to minty
to cinnamon-like. Not often used in Mexican cooking but occasionally in
A 6-foot flowering shrub, deep-rooted and drought-resistant. Leaves and
flowers eaten as a vegetable, sometimes steamed. Flavor like snap beans.
Leaves added to tamales.
Cilantro, coriander, Chinese parsley
Sunny annual that reseeds easily. Unique tangy flavor used in everything
from salsa to mole, with cheese, in broth, rice, beans.
Seed has a very different flavor from the fresh leaf. Leaf flavor lost
DE MAGUEY OR MIXIOTE.
The leaf membrane of the maguey is peeled and dried to produce a parchment-like
material used as a roasting pouch for meats and poultry.
Epazote, Mexican tea, wormseed
Tough camphor-smelling perennial that reseeds prolifically. Grows wild
in parts of central and southern Mexico. Considered by many to be indispensable
to a good pot of beans. Digestive, used for intestinal disorders.
Culinary uses are many: chopped fresh and added to sauteed mushrooms or
omelets, used in quesadillas, moles, broths.
Can be carefully dried for winter use. Very easy to grow.
Flowers of the bean group that contains kidney, navy, green, pinto, snap,
string and wax beans. Flowers are sauteed fresh, added to cooked beans
and fresh salsas.
A shady perennial, easily propogated from root cuttings. Aromatic flavor
added to guacamole, broth, meats, meatballs, cooked sauces. Fresh leaf
used in cold drinks.
Zapotec herb used in the cooking of beans and rice. Used fresh or dry.
SANTA OR HOJA SANTA.
tender woody-stemmed perennial. Velvety, heart-shaped leaves used in green
mole, for wrapping tamales, with chicken, beef, shrimp.
The leaf of the tropical avocado tree is used fresh or dried in broths,
chicken dishes, beans, tamales and with fish. Provides delicate, slightly
It is said that the poorer the fruit of the tree, the tastier its leaves
will be. Avocados grown in the U.S. are usually West Indian or Guatemalan
races; fragrant, anise-scented leaves and stems are characteristic of the
Mexican race only.
The husk of any variety of corn is used both fresh and dried, primarily
to wrap tamales. Fresh corn is delicious grilled directly in the husk.
Remove silk and add butter and salt, wrap husks back around the ear and
Banana trees are tropical but can be grown in colder climates if the bulb
or root is dug before frost and stored in a cool, dry place. Return to
the garden in spring.
Will grow annually to 15 feet if handled in this way. Leaves used to wrap
Aztec plant with a flavor like broccoli. only the tender tip is used, cooked
with onion and garlic, sometimes dipped in butter and deep-fried.
Bay leaf bay, bay laurel
Mexican bay is thinner-leafed, more silvery and more delicate in flavor
than Mediterranean bay (LAURIS NOBILIS). It is used for pickling, in cooked
sauces, soup, meat dishes.
Chamomile, German chamomile.
The Spanish name means "little apple," which describes the aroma
of this sun-loving perennial with small yellow, daisy-like blooms. Used
in Mexico to make a digestive, mildly diuretic tea, an eyewash, or a hair
A shady perennial, easily propogated from root cuttings. Used much like
Pungent digestive herb eaten raw by the sprig with tacos, guacamole, salad.
From PAPALOTL, the Nahuati for "butterfly."
Sunny annual with a flavor like cilantro but stronger. Used with squash,
Sun-loving biennial that reseeds easily. Mexican parsley is the flat4eafed
variety. Used in rice, stews, casseroles, green mole. Add toward the end
Sunny annual growing to 3 feet. Young growth eaten raw or used as a cooked
vegetable, with a spinach-like flavor. Used by Indians of Southwestern
U. S. in much the same way as in Mexico.
Combined with pumpkin seeds and chile strips in pre- Hispanic cooking.
Used fresh or as a cooked green, especially during Lent and The Day of
the Dead. Small succulent leaves resemble those of pursiane.
Tall, sun-loving tender perennial with the appearance of a large clump
of decorative grass. Lemon-scented leaves. Traditionally used only for
tea but added to chicken broth or soup in contemporary cuisine.
Thyme, garden thyme
Sunny aromatic perennial. Used in pickled chiles and marinades, with meats,
mushrooms, cooked sauces.
The citrus-scented toronjil is an annual that grows to 4 feet in good soil
and germinates readily from seed. Used to make a diuretic tea which is
considered good for weight control and for blood cleansing.
Low-growing, sun-loving succulent grown a~ an annual. Archaeological evidence
that it was eaten by American natives ca. 1200. Sharp, cooling flavor.
Eaten raw in salad or steamed, sauteed with onion and chile, in green mole.