Mexico (and the Americas in general) has given much to the worlds food larder. We are familiar with many of these foods even though we might not know where exactly the came from (1). We can thank the Americas for staple foods such as corn, potatoes, tomatoes, beans (2), squashes, chiles, avocados, the turkey, vanilla and cacao (3) as well as the highly nutritious seeds of amaranth, chia and quinoa.
- I have even heard Mexicans speaking of chiles that originated in China (which many Chinese also believe) BUT before the Columbian Exchange (after 1500) all chiles came from Mesoamerica. Tomatoes did not originate in Italy nor did potatoes come from Ireland.
- except for the broad (fava) bean, chickpea and soy bean. There are a few others but by and large beans come from the Americas.
- this is only a small fraction of what was transferred between México and the world in what was known as the “Columbian Exchange”
S.I.A.P (1) recently released an infographic of some of the lesser known culinary contributions of México. Follow the list below and see if you know any of these.
- Servicio de Información Agroalimentaria y Pesquera. The Agrifood and Fisheries Information Service, a decentralized administrative body of the Ministry of Agriculture. S.I.A.P. is in charge of generating statistics and geographic information on agri-food matters and the coordination of the Federal Public Administration and of the State, Municipal and Mexico City Governments for the implementation of the National Information System for Sustainable Rural Development.
Tejocote : Crataegus mexicana is a species of hawthorn known by the common names tejocote, manzanita, tejocotera and Mexican hawthorn. It is native to the mountains of Mexico and parts of Guatemala, and has been introduced in the Andes. Tejocote, the Mexican name for this fruit, comes from the Nahuatl word texocotl which means “stone fruit”. The fruit is eaten in Mexico cooked, raw, or canned. It resembles a crabapple, but it has three (or sometimes more) brown hard stones in the centre. It is a main ingredient used in ponche, the traditional Mexican hot fruit punch that is served at Christmas time and on New Year’s Eve.
They kinda remind me of loquats.
Huaya : Melicoccus bijugatus is a fruit-bearing tree in the soapberry family Sapindaceae, native or naturalized across the New World tropics including South and Central America, and parts of the Caribbean. Its stone-bearing fruits are edible. The bulk of the fruit is made up of the one (or, rarely, two) whitish seeds, which are surrounded by an edible, orange, juicy, gelatinous pulp. When ripe, the fruits have a bittersweet, wine-like flavour and have mild laxative properties. They are extremely rich in iron and phosphorus. The seed, being slippery, is a potential choking hazard
Epazote : Dysphania ambrosioides, formerly Chenopodium ambrosioides (or Teloxys ambrosioides), also known as Jesuit’s tea, Mexican-tea or Wormseed, is an annual or short-lived perennial herb native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico. (See Post : Epazote for greater detail on this plant). NOTE the WARNINGS re using epazote medicinally. Epazote is strongly and distinctly flavoured herb that is typically cooked with beans (and is said to reduce their “fartiness”) and is an ingredient in quesadillas with flor de calabaza and quesillo.
Acocil : The acocil (Cambarellus montezumae) is a species of crayfish in the family Cambaridae. It is endemic to Mexico, where it is known from Jalisco and Puebla. The name acocil comes from the Nahuatl cuitzilli, meaning “crooked one of the water” or “squirms in the water”. This animal is a potential environmental pest in Australia. It is an (illegal) aquarium animal. http://www.austcray.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Report-to-NSWAA-Mexican-Dwarf-CrayfishA.pdf
Toronjil : Purple lemon balm (Agastache mexicana) is a medicinal plant belonging to the Lamiaceae family . It is endemic to Mexico. In traditional medicine, this plant is frequently used to treat fright (susto/espanto). Various preparations are used for this purpose, generally accompanied by other herbs. The decoction of this plant together with cempasuchil flowers (Tagetes erecta) or the leaves of this plant (white lemon balm), plus foreign lemon balm (Dracocephalum moldavica), mastranso (Mentha rotundifolia) and donkey grass (Eupatorium petiolare), macerated in water or alcohol, are used to bathe the sick. Or just have a morning tea prepared with red lemon balm (Agastache mexicana) and Santo Domingo (Hedeoma piperita), before midnight . The decoction of red lemon balm with purple and white is recommendedto rubbed on the body of frightened children, they are covered with a canvas until they sweat, but before they are anointed on the arms and legs with “spreading spirits”; this is done three times a week. Alternatively, the lemon balm is macerated in a litre of refined alcohol, accompanied by pericón (Tagetes lucida), rue (Ruta chalepensis), estafiate (Artemisia ludoviciana var. Mexicana) and cempasuchil (Tagetes erecta), and let it rest until the maceration turns green. Take a teaspoon daily of this preparation until healed. In the treatment of diseases of the nerves and fright, (1) which are acquired when “strong impressions are received”, the plant is prepared in combination with white and blue lemon balm. Other healers recommend giving them along with cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), manita (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon) and linden (Tilia mexicana). (https://web.archive.org/web/20160708032259/http://www.medicinatradicionalmexicana.unam.mx/monografia.php?l=3&t=Toronjil&id=7433)
- Nervios and Susto (or its more serious incarnation Espanto) See Posts What is Curanderismo? and Glossary of Terms used in Herbal Medicine for more information on susto and espanto.
WARNING : some of the herbs mentioned above are fairly potent herbs (rue, estafiate) and should be used carefully. I would not recommend using these herbs medicinally without expert training or supervision.
Tunas (1) : the fruit of the nopal (Opuntia sp) and other similar species of cactus.
See Posts :
- The Nopal as Food
- Huitzilopochtli, Tenochtitlan and the Opuntia Cactus
- Frutos de Cactus : Tunas. The fruit of the nopal
- The Medicinal Qualities of Nopal Cactus
- Frutos de Cactus : Xoconostle
- Frutos de Cactus : Colonche
- Pulque Curado : Sangre de Conejo (Rabbits Blood)
- Frutos de Cactus : Garambullo for further information.
- not the fish
This is but a small sample of the opuntia fruits (tunas) that are available.
Biznaga: Biznaga is a name generally given to all cacti plants that are spherical or cylindrical in shape. It is particularly applied to the species Echinocactus platyacanthus, an endemic cactus from Mexico that is widely distributed in the desert regions of central and northern Mexico in towns such as Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro Hidalgo. It’s Nahuatl name of Huitznahuac means “surrounded by thorns.”
The biznaga is a source of different culinary products, but it is most widely used in confectionery, using its pulp known as citron (or acitron). This product is a fibrous and firm jam that is juicy and sweet, much appreciated and used in traditional Mexican cuisine. Small pieces of the cactus stem flesh are boiled in water with large amounts of sugar. They are air dried to allow the sugar to crystallize, producing attractive candies. These Biznaga sweets are still found produced on a small scale under specialized domestic conditions, but industrial producers have also capitalized on this sweet. The citron is an ingredient that has been part of many dishes throughout history since the introduction of the “rosca de reyes” and “chile en nogada.” The popularity of the cactus, particularly for industrial-scale uses, combined with its slow rate of growth, means that the biznaga de Tehuacán has become a highly threatened species. Recently, harvest of the cactus has been made illegal, negatively affecting the ingigenous populations that would harvest the cactus on a small scale for personal and community use. It is used in Otomies and the neighbouring municipality of Cardonal, Hidalgo as food and forage. There still exists a relatively large-scale illegal trade of the citron cactus pulp in Mexico, which is not allowing the biznaga populations to recover. Only the harvest is deemed illegal, technically not the sale of the biznaga products or derivatives, and so it is especially found in markets in the holiday seasons when it is used to prepare traditional dishes. https://www.fondazioneslowfood.com/en/ark-of-taste-slow-food/biznaga-de-tehuacan-cactus/
Chinicuiles : red maguey worms are known as chilocuiles, chinicuiles or tecoles, and are the larvae of the moth Comadia redtenbacheri. They are one of two species of edible caterpillars that infest various types of maguey. The white maguey worms, known as meocuiles, are caterpillars of a butterfly “Aegiale hesperiaris”. When fully mature, these caterpillars appear fleshy-red and can measure up to 65 mm (2.6 in). They are considered a highly nutritious delicacy in Mexican cuisine. One 100-gram serving contains over 650 calories, or the equivalent of two plates of rice. While they are sometimes eaten alive and raw, they are also considered delicious deep fried or braised, seasoned with salt, lime, and a spicy sauce, and served in a tortilla
This is also the same “worm” that you may find in mezcal (never tequila).
Anona Mexicana : The cherimoya (Annona cherimola), also spelled chirimoya and called chirimuya by the Inca people (also called custard apple), is a species of edible fruit-bearing plant in the genus Annona, from the family Annonaceae, which includes the closely related sweetsop (1) and soursop (2).
- The sugar-apple or sweet-sop is the fruit of Annona squamosa, the most widely grown species of Annona and a native of tropical climate in the Americas and West Indies.
- Soursop (also called graviola, guyabano, and in Hispanic America, guanábana) is the fruit of Annona muricata,
Jumiles : (Nahuatl languages: Xomilli), are small insects native to the Taxco region of the state of Guerrero in Mexico. Jumiles are collected for their culinary value and may be roasted, fried, ground, or eaten raw. A salsa is prepared by combining fresh tomatoes, chiles and onions with jumiles that have been mashed in a molcajete. The salsa is served with corn tortillas. The beginning of the jumil season on November 1 is the occasion of a large fiesta in Taxco.
Día del Jumil is a food festival that happens in the Sierra del Huixteco near the city of Taxco, in the state of Guerrero, and has been going on since 1943.
Huitlacoche : Corn smut is a plant disease caused by the pathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis that causes smut on maize and teosinte. The fungus forms galls on all above-ground parts of corn species. It is edible, and is known in Mexico as the delicacy huitlacoche. In modern Nahuatl, the word for huitlacoche is cuitlacochin. Huitlacoche is packed full of the important amino acid, lysine, that the body requires but cannot manufacture. It also contains more cholesterol reducing beta-glucens than oatmeal, and more protein than most of the mushroom family.
A selection of canned huitlacoche
Flor de cempasuchil : Tagetes erecta, the Mexican marigold or Aztec marigold, is a species of flowering plant in the genus Tagetes which is native to Mexico. Despite it being native to the Americas, it is often called African marigold. In Mexico, this plant is found in the wild in the states of México, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz. Its flower, the cempasúchil is also called the flor de muertos (“flower of the dead”) in Mexico and is used in the Día de Muertos celebration every 2 November. The word cempazúchitl (also spelled cempasúchil) comes from the Nahuatl term for the flower cempohualxochitl, literally translated as “twenty flower”. See Post Cempasuchil
Chile pasilla : The pasilla chile or chile negro is the dried form of the chilaca chili pepper, a long and narrow member of species Capsicum annuum. Named for its dark, wrinkled skin (literally “little raisin”), it is a mild to hot, rich-flavoured chile. The fresh narrow chilaca can measure up to 9 inches (230 mm) long and often has a twisted shape, which is seldom apparent after drying. It turns from dark green to dark brown when fully mature. Pasilla peppers have a bit of a heat range, though they are not overly hot. The peppers range from 250 to 3,999 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville Scale. Compare this to the popular jalapeno pepper, which averages about 5,000 SHU. The pasilla pepper should not be confused with the ancho pepper, another hugely popular dried Mexican chili pepper. The ancho is the dried version of the poblano pepper that growers and grocers frequently mislabel as the pasilla in the United States. The darker anchos are also sometimes known as chile negro – thus generating much confusion – but they are not the same as the pasilla peppers.
Papalo : Papalo or Papaloquelite is an ancient Mexican herb. Not well known outside of rural Mexico, but starting to show up at some markets and farmers markets. The name comes from the word papalotl, Nahuatl for butterfly. This annual herb is popular in Mexico (particulary in Puebla and the CDMX), where the leaves are used to flavour meats, beans and salads. Its leaves have a taste similar to Cilantro, although the flavour and fragrance is stronger. The flavour of the leaves intensifies as the plant matures.
- Pápaloquelite : Porophyllum macrocephalum
- Quillquina : Porophyllum ruderale
- Papaloquelite : Whats in a name?
- Chepiche/Pipicha : Porophyllum tagetoides
- Porophyllum gracile : Deer Weed
- Porophyllum punctatum
- Unknown Porophyllums
- The Botany of Papaloquelite
- Papalo and Pipicha. Skunk Weed?
- Porophyllum nummularium
- Porophyllums : Medicinal Utility : A Recap.
I have been growing papalo (and its cousin quillquina) for years now. I love the scent this plant emits as I water my garden in the mornings. This plant just sings of México.
Nanche : Byrsonima crassifolia is a species of flowering plant bearing fruit in the acerola family, Malpighiaceae, that is native to tropical America. It’s valued for its small (between one, and one and a quarter centimetre in diameter) round, sweet yellow fruit which is strongly scented. The fruits have a very pungent and distinct flavour and smell. The fruits are eaten raw or cooked as dessert.
Chayote : Chayote (Sechium edule), also known as choko in Australia, is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae. Chayote was one of the several foods introduced to the Old World during the Columbian Exchange. Also during this period, the plant spread from Mesoamerica to other parts of the Americas, ultimately causing it to be integrated into the cuisine of many other Latin American nations.
The chayote fruit is mostly used cooked. When cooked, chayote is usually handled like summer squash; it is generally lightly cooked to retain the crispy consistency. Raw chayote may be added to salads or salsas, most often marinated with lemon or lime juice. Whether raw or cooked, chayote is a good source of vitamin C.
Although most people are familiar only with the fruit as being edible, the root, stem, seeds and leaves are edible as well. The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes and other root vegetables, while the shoots and leaves are often consumed in salads and stir fries, especially in Asia. See Post Chepiche/Pipicha : Porophyllum tagetoides for information on using the chayote vines as food.
Xoconostle : The xoconostle (from Nahuatl xoconōchtli – ‘Xococ’ = ‘sour’ and ‘nochtli’ = tuna or prickly pear fruit) is native to central México and the arid semi-desert areas such as: Coahuila, Zacatecas, Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Mexico State and Hidalgo. It is the fruit of a type of Opuntia cactus. The seed cavity of the Xoconostle is centralized, whereas other prickly pear varieties have seeds embedded throughout the flesh. Its skin is soft and edible unlike the tuna. The xoconostle is characterized by its edible skin which may be around one centimetre thick (its seeds too are edible). Like its prickly pear cousin, it is covered in clusters of small spines that need to be removed before cooking with the fruit. See Posts Frutos de Cactus : Xoconostle and Medicinal uses of Xoconostle
Gutaba : fuck knows what this is. Research didn’t help me. If you know what it is then please let me know.
Cordoniz de Moctezuma : Cyrtonyx montezumae. The species is distributed in highlands from south-eastern Arizona , southwestern and central New Mexico and west Texas to Mexico, from the border states (from Sonora to Tamaulipas ) south to Oaxaca (west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec ). It is also known as the Mearns quail , the harlequin quail (for the male’s striking pattern), and the dumb quail (for its behaviour). In the presence of humans, the Mexican harlequin quail, instead of running, stays crouched and without moving, hidden among tall grasses. They can tolerate an approach of up to 1 m before fleeing, and have sometimes been caught by hand.
Jicama : Pachyrhizus erosus, commonly known as jícama); from Nahuatl xīcamatl, Mexican yam bean, or Mexican turnip, is the name of a native Mexican vine, although the name most commonly refers to the plant’s edible tuberous root. The root’s exterior is yellow and papery, while its inside is creamy white with a crisp texture that resembles raw potato or pear. The flavour is sweet and starchy, reminiscent of some apples or raw green beans, and it is usually eaten raw, sometimes with salt, lemon, or lime juice and chili powder. It is also cooked in soups and stir-fried dishes.
Chicozapote : Chicozapote : This plant comes from the family of the Sapotaceae, and its common name comes from the nahuatl “chictli”. Since the gum from this tree has a sweet flavor and aroma, it has been used to chew by many american towns for centuries. In Mexico, it was the Mayas who started extracting the gum from the chicozapote, by making Z shaped cuts on the bark, which allowed the sap to drain in zigzag all the way to a bag located at the tree’s base.
Manilkara zapota, corteza con incisiones. Árbol del chicle. Jardín Botánico «Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín». Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, México.
Also called chicozapote : Manilkara zapota, commonly known as sapodilla is a long-lived, evergreen tree native to southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The fruit is a large berry, 4–8 cm (2–3 in) in diameter. Inside, its flesh ranges from a pale yellow to an earthy brown colour with a grainy texture akin to that of a well-ripened pear. Each fruit contains one to six seeds. The seeds are hard, glossy, and black, resembling beans, with a hook at one end that can catch in the throat if swallowed. The fruit has an exceptionally sweet, malty flavor. The unripe fruit is hard to the touch and contains high amounts of saponin, which has astringent properties similar to tannin, drying out the mouth.
Granada china : Passiflora ligularis , popularly called Chinese pomegranate (not to be confused with the pomegranate, the Punica granatum species – and is also not Chinese), is a climbing plant belonging to the Passifloraceae familynative to central Mexico , throughout Central America and western South America
The pomegranate was originally described throughout the Mediterranean region. It was introduced into Spanish America in the late 16th century and into California by Spanish settlers in 1769.
Papaya : The papaya, papaw, or pawpaw is the plant Carica papaya, one of the 22 accepted species in the genus Carica of the family Caricaceae. Its origin is in the tropics of the Americas, perhaps from Central America and southern Mexico. The unripe green fruit can be eaten cooked, but not raw due to its poisonous latex content. The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds. The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. In traditional medicine, papaya leaves have been used as a treatment for malaria, an abortifacient, a purgative, or smoked to relieve asthma
Quelites : Quelite can mean any of a number of different plants commonly eaten in Mexico for their leaves, stems, flowers, flower buds or roots/tubers. They are usually wild plants. See Post Quelites : Quilitl
Chapulines : Chapulines, plural for chapulín are grasshoppers of the genus Sphenarium that are commonly eaten in certain areas of Mexico. The term is specific to Mexico and Central America, and derives from the Nahuatl word chapolin (singular) or chapolimeh (plural). They are collected only at certain times of year (from their hatching in early May through the late summer/early autumn). They are toasted on a comal. Often they are seasoned with garlic, lime juice and salt, sometimes with an extract of Maguey worms, lending a sour-spicy-salty taste to the finished product. One of the regions of Mexico where chapulines are most widely consumed is Oaxaca, where they are sold as snacks at local sports events and are becoming revived among foodies
Zapote : Sapote (from Nahuatl tzapotl) is a term for a soft, edible fruit. Black sapote (Diospyros nigra), from eastern Mexico south to Colombia, is probably the original Aztec tzapotl.
Mamey sapote : Pouteria sapota, the mamey sapote, is a species of tree native to Mexico and Central America. The tree is also cultivated in the Caribbean. Its fruit is eaten in many Latin American countries. The fruit, technically a berry, is about 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 in) long and 8 to 12 cm wide and has flesh ranging in color from pink to orange to red. The brown skin has a texture somewhat between sandpaper and the fuzz on a peach. The fruit’s texture is creamy and soft, the flavor is a mix of sweet potato, pumpkin, honey, prune, peach, apricot, cantaloupe, cherry, and almond. A mamey sapote is ripe when the flesh is vibrant salmon colored when a fleck of the skin is removed. The flesh should give slightly, as with an overripe avocado.
Huauzontle : Chenopodium nuttalliae is a species of edible plant native to Mexico. It is known by the common name huauzontle (literally “hairy amaranth”, from the Nahuatl huauhtli ‘amaranth’ and tzontli ‘hair’). It is eaten throughout Mexico, it is most commonly consumed in the center of the country, especially in the states of Tlaxcala, Mexico, Guerrero, Morelos, and in the south of Mexico City. A popular dish is huauzontle pancakes stuffed with cheese and topped with tomato sauce. Alternatively, huauzontles can be encased in an egg batter and deep-fried with a stick of salty Mexican cheese. See Post Huauzontle
Cuajilote : (Parmentiera aculeata) a tree that lives in the low deciduous forest in wide extensions in the south and central Mexico . Its flowers grow directly on the trunk of the tree. The fruit is elongated and fleshy with longitudinal grooves and is edible. Its leaves are composed of 2 to 3 leaflets. The word cuajilote comes from the Nahuatl “ cuahuitl ”, tree, and “xilotl ” = Corn of a tree. It can be eaten raw or cooked; Its consumption is practically restricted to the areas where the cuajilote thrives, where it is also used as a forage feed. This tree is used as a laxative and diuretic in several regions of the centre and south of the country, mainly in the State of Mexico, the Federal District, Hidalgo and Puebla. It is also recommended to treat kidney ailments and its treatment includes the fruit, the bark, the flowers and the root, which are boiled and ingested as tea. In other cases such as stones and urinary tract, it is effective to grind the fruit and ingest the extract or roast it and eat it. In addition, cooking the flower, the root or the fruit is a good diuretic. It is also used for other diseases such as asthma, claw, flu and cough; the flowers are boiled with tejocote and sweetened to drink warm on an empty stomach for two weeks.
Tomate verde : The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), also known as the Mexican husk tomato, is a plant of the nightshade family bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. A staple of Mexican cuisine, they are eaten raw and cooked in a variety of dishes, particularly salsa verde.
Chile morita : Morita peppers are a type of chipotle pepper made from smoked, red-ripe jalapeno peppers. The main difference is that Moritas are smoked for less time, which leaves them softer and retains their slightly fruity flavour. Morita chiles are similar to meco chiles (also known as brown chipotle or chipotle ahumado), another type of dried chipotle pepper. You can use these smoked chile peppers interchangeably, but moritas are spicier and have less of a smoky flavour
Jocote : Jocote fruit is a small tropical fruit, scientifically classified as Spondias purpurea. It is a popular fruit throughout Central America, particularly in Nicaragua and in Costa Rica. Xocotl is the generic Nahuatl language classification for sour or acidic fruit. This appears to be used as a more generic term for fruit, while XOCOTE-TL is specifically ‘plum.’ Most derivations from XOCO-TL have to do with sourness, unripeness, or immaturity. (“xoco” denotes sourness)
Since 2011, Jocote has been cultivated in Chiapas, Mexico, providing much needed work for producers in the area, and a good tree for planting in areas affected by soil erosion. Jocote fruit are most often enjoyed as-is, raw and fully ripe. Ripe fruits will be soft to the touch. Unripe Jocote fruits can be eaten, though they are much more tart and somewhat bitter.
These are of course only a small taste of what México has gifted the World. there are others such as……
Some of these I have written about. Some of these are yet to be written about. Stay tuned…….