Are you familiar with papalo? We first learned about papalo last summer. This year we found a seed source online, placed the order and started growing it in the edible landscape. Papalo is an ancient Mexican herb whose ancestral home is thought to be South America. Today it grows wild in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. And now, as you can see from the photo, right in the heart of Dallas County.
Papalo’s bluish green leaves have a somewhat complex, distinctive flavor reminiscent of cilantro and arugula. But unlike cilantro, it grows throughout the summer and does not bolt. It is best used fresh as it doesn’t dry well. Once cool weather arrives, the growing season is over.
When starting papalo from seeds you must be very careful not to separate the seed stem from the umbrella-like top. Master Gardener, Gail Cook, started the seeds for us in March. She carefully laid them on top of the potting mix in 4” pots. They were then covered lightly with more of the mix. Once the seedlings were about 3-4” tall, around mid-May, we transplanted them into our Ole Garden.
Plants are thriving in well-draining soil in an area that receives mid-morning to late afternoon sun. After that, they are in full shade. Just last week we noticed that the plants are producing those uniquely shaped seed heads that will be harvested for next year’s crop.
If you’re looking for a vibrant herb substitute for cilantro, check out our Ole Garden by the red shed in the edible landscape. You’ll find a large patch of papalo growing in an area immediately south of the sidewalk. Feel free to snip some for a taste!
A few ideas for using papalo include the following:
1 or more (to taste) jalapeno or serrano chili peppers, finely minced (optional)
2-3 tablespoons finely diced yellow or red onion
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh papalo
Coarse salt to taste
½ cup finely diced fresh tomatoes
Topping: ¼ cup finely diced fresh tomatoes, 1 tablespoon finely diced onion, 1 teaspoon finely shredded papalo leaves
Garnish: whole papalo leaves
Crush the onions, chilis, salt, lime juice and papalo in a mortar and pestle or a molcajete until they are just paste-like. Add the avocado flesh and mash it roughly into the paste until well mixed. Stir in the tomatoes and place the guacamole in a serving dish or molcajete.
Mix the tomatoes, onions and shredded papalo that were reserved for the topping. Pile on top of the guacamole. Garnish with whole papalo leaves and serve.
Photos by Linda and Starla Willis