With a flavor somewhat like arugula meets cilantro, papalo is a common and popular herb in Mexico, but very difficult to find here in the US.
I learned about papalo from Orta’s production tech, Vitelia whose family is originally from Mexico. She was going way out of her way to specialist Mexican herb vendors where bunches of papalo were expensive and not of the best quality, having traveled long distances.
So we decided to grow our own at the Orta studio. Which is how I found my way to our new papalo supplier, Terroir seeds. They’re one of the only vendors to carry it, and as far as I know, the only ones to prioritize keeping the all-important tail attached to the seeds. Papalo has notoriously low germination rates because it’s sensitive to damage between the seed and the fluffy “tail.”
That’s why the seeds are packed in a box instead of an envelope! Be careful when you handle them to keep the fluffy part well attached to the straight part of the seed.
Papalo is a heat-lover. But Stephen at Terroir in Arizona grows it through the winter. And ours is doing great outdoors right now in October. We’re planning to start another fall batch to keep the freshness going as long as we can at the studio.
You can also grow it indoors like keeping a small basil plant on a warm, sunny windowsill through the winter.
Papalo has a strong flavor. Vitelia eats bunches of it at once. I prefer just a few leaves to flavor a salad or batch of salsa. If you end up not loving the flavor, the Mexican-Americans in your life will likely be excited for fresh papalo greens, seedlings and seeds. It's a fun experiment with flavor!
To save seed, just wait for the plant to flower and collect the seeds, being careful to keep the fluff attached when you store them.