More Than Mere Cilantro, a Guide to Mexican Herbs
Lindeman Pipicha can go by chepiche, pipitza, or papalo delgado.
[See More Good Stuff: Heirloom Bling, Heritage Birds | If Holden Caulfield and Lisbeth Salander Were Food Bloggers]
Gratefully, the days when it took diligent searching to find a sprightly bunch of cilantro in your local supermarket are gone. Fresh epazote for a pot of beans? No problem. As herbs like cilantro, culantro, and epazote inch their way into the American herb canon, there's still a bounty of Mexican herbs to discover -- many of which were used in Mesoamerican cooking millennium before the Spanish arrived, and thus retain their indigenous and fun-to-pronounce names. Here's a guide to lesser-known fresh Mexican herbs available in NYC.
This distinctive herb is an essential ingredient in the heroically large Poblano sandwiches, cemitas. The sharp flavor of the papalo buzzes through the layers of cheeses and meats in the sandwich like a serrated knife. The name comes from papalotl, the Nahuatl word for "butterfly," though the pretty scalloped leaves belie its pungent bite. It can also be chopped fine and added to guacamole.
The epazote plant has serrated, tapering leaves, similar to a dandelion greens. It's a perennial that grows wild in many parts of Mexico and the United States, with a punchy resinous aroma as sharp as gasoline. It's indispensable when cooking black beans and is also used to flavor quesadillas, mushroom dishes, and can also be made into a tea to ameliorate gastric distress, which is why it's traditionally added to the bean pot.
Depending on the region you're in and to whom you're talking, pipicha goes by several names: chepiche, pipitza, or papalo delgado. There are a few varieties of this herbaceous plant, one of which looks like tarragon and the other like miniature papalo, both of which are used in corn and squash dishes, and sometimes eaten raw in salads. Its brassy, cilantro-like flavor is a vital addition to sopa de guias, a soup made with squash vines, flowers, and herbs.