Papalo is a quick growing long lived annual herb plant that is best eaten fresh and raw as a flavour in a salsa or pesto or just as a last minute addition to a dish thrown on top. It is like a cross between coriander and rocket with something else sour or bitter added in the back – a classic ‘Savory’ green flavour. It is widely used in parts of Mexico and throughout parts of South America as a last minute addition to dishes. It is often served as a small fresh stick in a bowl to pick leaves from.
Heat seems to destroy the flavour pretty quickly so stick with raw uses.
Papalo is known by quite a few different names such as yerba porosa, Quilquina and Bolivian Cilantro.
There seem to be quite a few forms of it and these are often listed as subspecies. The main difference seems to be variations in the leaf form, shape and colour – probably a natural regional variation.
ssp ruderale which has longer narrower bluer leaves is usually know as Quilquina
ssp macrocephalum has wider greener leaves is usually know as Papalo
The larger leaves often have a very distinct series of what look like little holes in the form of small straight lines that give the appearance of having a ‘tear line’ down the leaves.
I’m mainly growing ssp macrocephalum that has the greener wider leaves.
The plants grow to about 1-1.5m high and are quite quick growing with sufficient heat and water and a well mulched manured soil. They seem pretty hardy and will germinate and grow with lower temps but really take off when they get the heat and full sun. I start mine in small pots and then transplant into the ground in a sunny well prepared site once summer is bearing down.
They flower and seed profusely and the seed is like a dandelion puff ball ( i.e. wind distributed).