Las Flores Comestibles : Edible Flowers : Colorin

Colorin at the University of Western Australia

Erythrina americana, E.flabelliformis, E.coralloides (Tzompanquahuitl)

Also called : Alcaparra, chacmolcé, cuchillitos (little knives), chiil, chocolín, chumpancle, colorín, ccolorin grande, oral bean, equimite, espadita, flor de pita, flor de pitillo, flor de pito, gallitos, gasparita, gasparito, gásparo, lalhni, machetito, machetitos (little machetes), Michoacán (parensuri, puregue) patol, pemuche, pemuchi, permuche, pichocho, pichoco, pichojo, pinñón espinoso, pispirique, pito, poró, quemique, tenek, tlalhne, tsentse tsentse, tzonpantli, tzompantli, Whistle tree, zacapemucho, zompantil.

These are the main varieties we will look at (from the point of view of edibility). From a medicinal point of view I only recommend the use of the flowers. The use of the seeds, roots, bark or leaves should be avoided. Although they do have medicinal usage the knowledge of its use is not readily known (outside of those familiar with the traditions of this plant). See further down for more information on this.

Erythrina flabelliformis
Erythrina coralloides
Erythrina americana

WARNING : Only the flowers of this plant are considered edible. The seeds of some varieties have been noted as shamanic hallucinogens but these same varieties are also noted as being “toxic enough to make a rat poison” (Davidow 1999). The bark of this plant/tree is also considered to be poisonous.

Colorin (plural colorines) is a flowering plant of the genus Erythrina which is native to Mexico. Colorín is the name of a type of tree, Erythrina americana, which can grow up to nine meters tall

Its flowers, which are edible once boiled and with no pistil or seeds, are enjoyed in stews or in sauce. In the community of Tepoztlán it is a family tradition to eat them when in season, and at Christmas tamales are made with a sauce made from pasilla chile, pork and colorín flowers. During Lent, pancakes are made from the flowers with egg, with a tomato sauce and served with rice.

Flor de Colorin at the mercado.
This is a great indication as to when the flowers are best ready for eating.
By Koffermejia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Prepare your flowers by removing the centre part of the flower. These (the stamens and pistil) are bitter and unpalatable.

Remove these bits
You will be left with the good bits (on the left) and the not so good bits (on the right)

Lightly cook the cleaned flowers in boiling salted water. This may take around 15 minutes. They will lose most of their colour when you do this.

Cooking times posted for this flower vary greatly. Take this into account with the recipes below. Practise.

The best advice I have seen regarding the timing of the cooking and the “doneness” of the flower is that “They are considered cooked when you are able to cut the flower with your fingernail.”

note the loss of colour in the prepared flowers.

These flowers are now ready to be used in your recipe.

Gasparitos con huevos


  • 1/2 kilo of gasparitos
  • 6 eggs
  • Oil
  • 1 onion (sliced)
  • Salt (to taste)


  1. Prepare the flowers by removing the pistils and stamens. Wash the flowers in fresh water
  2. Boil the gasparitos in salted water until they are soft and cooked. Strain the water from the flowers.
  3. In a frying pan, fry the onion.
  4. Add the gasparitos to the pan and fry briefly.
  5. Add the eggs. Move regularly to distribute the egg and prevent it from sticking.
  6. Remove them from the heat once the egg is done to your liking.
  7. Serve the cooked gasparitos with rice or beans

Beans with pemuche and epazote


 10 servings

  • 1/2 kilo dried black beans
  • 2 cups pemuche
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 6 epazote leaves
  • to taste Salt
  • 3 tablespoons oil


  1. Wash your beans, remove any stones/twigs (or anything non-bean)
  2. Put the beans to cook in a pot with 3 litres of water. The cooking time varies, it can be from 30 minutes in a pressure cooker and it can go from 1 hour in a normal pot (or maybe ebven longer if the beans are old).
  3. Clean and wash the pemuche well, this prevents the stew from becoming bitter
  4. Once the beans are a bit soft, add the pemuche, the epazote and the chopped onion and the oil.
  5. Cook until the pemuche is soft (about 15 or 20 minutes). Season to taste
Frijoles con pemuche

Epazote is a strongly and uniquely scented herb. The fresh herb is a much better choice than the dried. You usually just whack a sprig of the herb into the dish as it cooks and then remove it at the end before serving. This will flavour the dish nicely. If you use the dried herb it has a tendency to break down and be absorbed into the dish. This means you will consume the herb and not just its flavour. This puts you in the position of consuming a medicinal dosage of the plant and this may have a griping (1) effect. See Post Epazote for more information on this plant.

  1. (of pain in the stomach or intestines) sharp and occurring suddenly or spasmodically.

Tzompantle Pancakes : Tortitas de Colorin (Colorín pancakes)

Ingredients (for 6 servings)

  • ½ kilo of Tzompantle flower
  • 300 gr of Panela Cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 guajillo chiles
  • 1 onion (½  thinly sliced and the other ½ cut into 2 pieces)
  • 1 chile serrano
  • chicken broth
  • flour – for dredging
  • oil – for shallow frying
  • salt and pepper


  1. The tzompantle flowers are washed and cleaned by removing the stamens and pistil, leaving only the corolla of the flower, then they are cooked with a little salt, taking care that they do not overcook.
  2. Once they are cooked drain them and gently squeeze the flowers to remove any excess moisture. Take care not to crush them too much.
  3. Put the sliced onion in a frying pan and fry until soft. Try not colour them too much.
  4. In a bowl, put the three eggs and break them up with a fork. Add the cooked flowers and onions. Season with salt.
  5. Finley slice the serrano chile and add to the batter
  6. To make the tortitas, take a little of the flower mixture, make a slightly flattened ball and place a piece of cheese in the centre and cover it with some more of the flower mix.
  7. Dredge the tortitas in flour and remove any excess flour. Fry the tortitas in hot oil and drain to remove excess oil.
  8. For the sauce, roast the tomato, garlic and the rest of the onion on the comal.
  9. Dry roast the guajillo chiles, taking care not to burn. Remove the stem, seeds and veins of the chiles. Soak the chiles in hot water until soft.
  10. Grind together (in your trusty molcajete) or blend (in your trusty blender) the roasted tomato, onion, garlic and guajillo. Strain the sauce to remove any grit/chunks and fry this in a little hot oil until it becomes a few shades darker. Thin the sauce down with some chicken broth and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. The tortitas are served (and bathed) with the sauce.

And now for something a little more complex.

Enmoladas de tlatonile con gasparito : from Huatusco : Ingredientes: para 4 personas


  • 1 cup of gasparito flowers, without peduncle or pistil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ½ white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 200 grams of pumpkin seed
  • 100 grams of sesame seed
  • 2 ancho chiles
  • 10 comapeño chiles (see image below recipe)
  • 2 litres of chicken broth
  • 1 sprig of epazote
  • 12 tortillas
  • oil for frying
  • salt to taste


  1. Place the flowers in a pot and cover them with water, add salt and boil until soft, drain.
  2. In a different pot, heat the oil and add the garlic and onion, add the tomato, cook until it releases its juice, add the flowers, mix well and season to taste with salt. Remove from the heat and set aside until needed.
  3. Toast the pumpkin and sesame seeds on a comal, remove the pumpkin seed when it becomes inflated and the sesame when it is lightly browned.
  4. Dry roast the chilies on the comal, taking care not to burn them.
  5. Grind the Pumpkin seed, sesame, chile ancho and comapeño with a little water, until you get a thick paste.
  6. In a saucepan, heat the broth and add the seed/chile paste, add the epazote and salt. This is your tlatonile sauce **(See NOTES)**. Reserve warm.
  7. In a frying pan, heat enough oil and fry the tortillas for a few seconds to soften, remove from heat and drain to remove excess fat.
  8. Take a tortilla, dip in the tlatonile and drain the excess.
  9. Place a tablespoon of the stewed flower in the centre of the sauced tortilla and into a tube (like a flauta), bathe with more tlatonile. Repeat the process with the rest of the tortillas.
  10. Serve the enmoladas and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.


The tlatonil or tlatonile (from the Nahuatl tlatonilli ) is a typical mole of Veracruz cuisine , specifically originally from Huatusco, Veracruz, Mexico . It is made basically with two types of seeds: sesame and pipián or pepián seeds (a type of pumpkin seed).

The comapeño pepper is a variety of chile (Capsicum annuum) native to Comapa, in the mountainous region of the state of Veracruz. it is very hot (like the piquín or chiltepín chili – which might also be used as substitutes)

Chile comapeño
De Jicara Foodie Traveller – Trabajo propio,
CC BY-SA 4.0,

Now. Lets spend some time practising our Spanish.

Medicinal Uses.

As noted previously there is a very real danger of poisoning if consuming any part of this plant (except for the flowers). The information below is for educational purposes only and is not instructions for its use. Medicinal use of this plant should only be attempted by those trained in its use.

Phytochemistry : It is known that this plant has toxic actions produced by a series of toxic compounds (mainly in the seeds and bark) . The main toxic symptoms that have been reported by the consumption of this plant are the paralysis of skeletal muscles, inhibition in the transmission of nerve impulses, pupil dilation, visual disturbances, arterial hypotension and respiratory paralysis. The toxic actions exerted by this plant are mainly due to the alkaloids present in it. Chemical analyses of Erythrina americana miller showed the presence of 30 alkaloids obtained from this plant, the most active are alpha and beta erythroidin, compounds that are absorbed orally and intravenously and that have the property of paralyzing motor nerves due to their narcotic action. One of the alkaloids is very similar to that of d-tubocuranine (curare); which is why tetanisation (1) and semi-paralysis occurred in some individuals. An overdose of will produce muscle paralysis, first affecting the finest muscles, such as: the peri-orbital muscles and finally the respiratory muscles. (such as the diaphragm) and cause death by suffocation.

  1. Tetanisation – to stimulate a muscle by a rapid series of stimuli so that individual muscular responses (contractions) are fused into a sustained contraction. A tetanic contraction (also called tetanized state, tetanus, or physiologic tetanus, the latter to differentiate from the disease called tetanus). This is painful.

Medicinal Actions (in traditional folk medicine)

Flowers : sedative (the bark and leaves have also been noted as having sedative actions)

Seeds : laxative, diuretic, expectorant, anti-asthmatic, antimalarial (See WARNINGS re the toxicity of the seeds)

Several Mexican species of Erythrina are used medicinally – their roots are considered sudorific; their leaves are considered emmenagogue; a decoction of the flowers is used in treating chest affections; and the juice of the stems is applied to scorpion stings

The root of this plant has been used to treat fever. A decoction of the root bark has also been used as a spray to treat toothache or drunk during menses to help control abnormal vaginal bleeding. In Vera Cruz the leaves have been applied to abscesses and ulcers and taken internally to alleviate insect stings and the fruit (?) is widely applied for skin, head and eye inflammations. The Huastec Maya have used the bark as a contraceptive 40 days after a child is born and use an infusion of the green flowers for insomnia and in Guerrero the plant has been used as an antimalarial. (García-Mateos 2001).

The ground seed has been used to cure toothache, has narcotic properties, its leaves in an infusion are used to alleviate the discomfort of erysipelas (1), also acting as an antipyretic, varicose vein, hypnotic and sedative. It is so well used as a tonic-clonic seizure controller, and in pre-anaesthetic medication since it allows the abdominal muscle wall to relax and thus facilitate the work of surgery.

  1. Erysipelas is a relatively common bacterial infection of the superficial layer of the skin (upper dermis), extending to the superficial lymphatic vessels within the skin, characterized by a raised, well-defined, tender, bright red rash, typically on the face or legs, but which can occur anywhere on the skin. It is a form of cellulitis and is potentially serious
Erythrina fusca (syn E.glauca)

Duke (2009) notes of E.glauca the following

Actions : analgesic, antiseptic, antitussive, febrifuge, hallucinogenic, narcotic, purgative, sudorific, vermifuge

Indications : beriberi, boils, bruises, cancer, colds, constipation, coughs, dermatosis (1), fever, flu, fracture, fungus, headache, haematuria (2), hepatosis (3), infection, malaria, migraine, myalgia (4), mycosis (5), nephrosis (6), pain, rheumatism, toothache, worms, wounds.

  1. Conditions of the skin, also known as dermatoses, can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections, irritation, autoimmune diseases, or cancer. Treatment for dermatosis depends on the cause, and may include topical steroids, moisturizers, antibiotics, antifungals, or chemotherapy.
  2. blood in the urine
  3. any functional disorder of the liver.
  4. Myalgia describes muscle aches and pain, which can involve ligaments, tendons and fascia, the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones and organs. Injuries, trauma, overuse, tension, certain drugs and illnesses can all bring about myalgia.
  5. Fungal infection, also known as mycosis, is disease caused by pathogenic fungi
  6. Any degenerative disease of the kidney tubules, the tiny canals that make up much of the substance of the kidney. Nephrosis can be caused by kidney disease, or it may be a complication of another disorder, particularly diabetes.

Dosages : young leaves eaten raw (in papaya and salad dishes) or cooked as a vegetable : bark decoction used to bathe aching limbs and wounds; 1/2 cup drunk for malaria : bark resin in alcohol rubbed into bruises : floral decoction antitussive in coughs. Brazilians drink purgative root tea for hepatosis and rheumatism

By far the best study on the medicinal nature of this whole species has been done in Brazil by Araújo‐Júnior (etal 2012).

Shamanic Use.

Schultes (etal 1992) notes that the seeds of E.coralloides are “believed to have been” tzompanquahuitl which was employed as a medicine and hallucinogen. He also notes that the beans of E.flabelliformis are employed in Guatemala in divinatory practises and that to the Tarahumara it was a medicinal plant of “many varied uses” and it “may have been utilised as a hallucinogen”. Schultes unfortunately had a one track mind and I fear that all he could see (or wanted to see) were hallucinogens.

Ratsch (1992) notes that E.americana contains indole alkaloids (1) and that the beans has also noted that the beans were used for divination, as a drug for producing dreams and as an aphrodisiac.

  1. Indole alkaloids are a class of alkaloids containing a structural moiety (2) of indole; many indole alkaloids also include isoprene groups and are thus called terpene indole or secologanin tryptamine alkaloids. … The amino acid tryptophan is the biochemical precursor of indole alkaloids. Important indole alkaloids which have been isolated from plants include the antihypertensive drug, reserpine from Rauvolfia serpentina and the powerful antitumor drugs, vinblastine and vincristine from Catharanthus roseus. Since ancient times, plants containing indole alkaloids have been used as psychedelic drugs. The Aztecs used and the Mazatec people continue to use psilocybin mushrooms and the psychoactive seeds of morning glory species like Ipomoea tricolor (Dewick 2002). The mushroom hallucinogens psilocin and psilocybin, the ergot fungus alkaloids (from which LSD can be obtained), the drugs reserpine and yohimbine, and the poison strychnine all belong to this group.
  2. A moiety is a part of the chemical structure of a molecule or compound that could include a substructure, such as a functional group. For example, benzyl acetate has an acetyl moiety and benzyl alcohol moiety. Each moiety of benzyl acetate, in turn, contains a portion of the functional group.

DO NOT use this plant as a hallucinogen. At this stage (unless you are being directed by a curandero/a or shaman) there is simply too great a risk of being poisoned.


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  • Iralda del Carmen Brito Fuentes : Zompantle or colorín ( Erythrina americana Miller) : Traditional Medicine. School of Nursing : Autonomous University of the State of Morelos : Academic agreement with Tlahui-Educa : Article Received: May 11, 2005 : Edited: August 10, 2006 : last accessed 23/08/21
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  • Rao, Venketeshwer (2012). Phytochemicals – A Global Perspective of Their Role in Nutrition and Health || A Phytochemical and Ethnopharmacological Review of the Genus Erythrina. , 10.5772/1387(Chapter 8), –. doi:10.5772/26997
  • Rätsch, Christian. 1992. The dictionary of sacred and magical plants. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.
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  • Samman Munir, Aqsa Shahid, Bilal Aslam, Usman Ali Ashfaq, Muhammad Sajid Hamid Akash, Muhammad Akhtar Ali, Ahmad Almatroudi, Khaled S. Allemailem, Muhammad Shahid Riaz Rajoka, Mohsin Khurshid, “The Therapeutic Prospects of Naturally Occurring and Synthetic Indole Alkaloids for Depression and Anxiety Disorders”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2020, Article ID 8836983, 11 pages, 2020.
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