Growing Papalo

This page talks about growing papalo and its benefits.

Papalo is an annual plant native to Mexico, Central and South America.  While it isn’t very well known in the United States, it grows wild and is cultivated throughout Central and South America to season food.  Today, it has spread as far north a Texas.  It has large, blue-green leaves and tastes similar to a cross between cilantro and arugula, but definitely has its own distinctive flavor.  It can grow to a height of 4 to 5 feet.

Papalo can be directly sown, but is best grown in smaller pots to transplant later as it requires warm soil to germinate.  Also, due to its long maturation period, it’s best to start early.  Plant seeds ¼ inch in soil or barely covered.  Keep soil moist and use a plant heating pad to keep soil warm.  The seeds should germinate within 7 to 21 days of planting.

Once the seedlings have grow to 3 to 4 inches tall, you can transplant them to their final home.  Choose a sunny spot in your garden as papalo prefers full sun, but can also be grown in an area with partial shade.  Plant seedlings 12 inches apart.  Allow the soil to dry between waterings.

To encourage the growth of a bushier plant, trim the growing tips while the plant is still young.  When not trimmed properly during the early stages of its growth, the plant may appear spindly and potentially fall over.

Papalo should mature within 70-85 days from planting.  Harvest the same way you would cilantro: either in bunches to be dried or cut as needed for fresh papalo.  Because papalo is an annual plant that doesn’t tolerate cold well, you can harvest the entire plant at the end of the season and dry for use in between growing seasons.  To dry, collect and tie sprigs together and hang upside-down in an air with good ventilation and out of direct sunlight. Once dry, chop and store in an airtight container out of the sun.

To collect the seeds for next year’s planting or share with friends and family, simply wait until the flowers have turned into little puff balls, similar to a dandelion plant.  The seeds are the bottom part of this ball, the part still connected to the plant.

Papalo is used to flavor tacos, sauces and salsas.  You can use it in recipes that require papalo, or as a substitute for cilantro.  When substituting it for cilantro, use about half as much papalo as you would cilantro.  Some people prefer the flavor of cooked papalo in recipes, as opposed to raw.  You can add it fresh to tacos for a wonderful flavor or try out this salsa recipe:

Salsa Verde with Papalo:

2 cups tomatilloes, chopped

1 avocado, peeled and cut in half

3 Serrano peppers, stems removed

4 garlic cloves, peeled

2 generous tablespoons papalo leaves

juice from ½ lime

salt to taste

Blend all ingredients together.  Serve over chips, chicken, pork, tacos or beans.

Click here to visit our page on papalo seeds.

Go to Herbs from Growing Papalo   

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