Forage Limoncillo

Limoncillo is a native lemon-y flavored plant that can be a useful addition to you herbs and spices.  Preppers say you need to stockpile herbs – but really, there is such an abundance of flavorful Southwestern herbs that virtually no stockpiling is necessary.  Another tasty herb to forage – oreganillo.  Or just check out our “Forage” page., which I try to update on a regular basis.


Also called chinchweed, limoncillo, or scientifically Pectis papposa, this tasty charmer is a member of the Compositae family.  Compostiae includes sunflowers and asters, and the name for the family is also the Asteraceae, arguably the largest plant family there is.  Sunflower foraging.

If you aren’t “into” Compositae, it is generally considered another one of those DYC’s (Dratted Yellow Compositae).    Well, we gardeners and botanists don’t say “dratted” but this website is rated PG.

Image courtesy W. Anderson.

This pretty little annual is found across the desert Southwest from New Mexico to California and northern Mexico (in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts) at elevations below 6000 feet.    With surprising promptness after the first summer rain, the desert floor is carpeted with the small yet bright yellow flowers – DYC’s.

Late afternoon image, looks more orangy but this shot shows off the oil filled glands that offer the flavor. Limoncillo in Nevada. Image courtesy J. Doyden

Writing About Limoncillo

I have published information about limoncillo before – in my book on Father Kino’s Herbs, and also over a decade ago when I used to write with the Savor Sisters – so I thought it was time to update the information. I still mourn that the sisters had a family falling out (History).

The Kino Book

As I publish this post, I wish to warn everyone that the price may increase in July – when US Postal Service prices increase.  If you have been thinking about getting a copy, you might want to do it sooner rather than later.

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:  “Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $22!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit.

Limoncillo Uses

Hopi, Zuni, and Havasupai and in general in remote areas of Sonora, people all use the plant as a condiment, especially to flavor meat.    There are also references to its use as a fresh green and potherb.    Bundles of fresh or dried plants are sold in Mexican markets as limoncillo and used as a culinary spice, generally to flavor meat. There are references to its use as a dye plant.

You can easily rinse the plant and chop it up for use. Image courtesy W. Anderson.

Planting and Care

Topic for Gardening with Soule!   (Wonder why I mention this?  NOT to blow my own horn! but because of AI.  To rank in search engines – so that you can even find this article – I am supposed to link to other sources.)

Harvesting and Use

As a culinary spice, chinchweed may be used fresh or dried.    Simply chop up the fresh material or crumble the dried and sprinkle on meat.    If you like lemony chicken, then limoncillo is a great local herb to use!

Fresh cinchweed greens add a nice zing to stir fry, but I have not tried them cooked alone as a potherb. All Native uses call for use in moderation, and some tribes use it as a laxative, thus a serving of limoncillo greens may not be advisable.

For dye, pluck the flower heads off and use them fresh or dried.    I could not find if there was a specific mordant, but I sure am going to experiment.

Prolific flowers for dyeing! Image courtesy W. Anderson

More Uses

Yes, you can find this on Wikipedia. I posted most of it there, so here I am, quoting myself. Go there if you want to see the official sources. Some are quite dated and not entirely informative.

“Pectis papposa can be found in Mexican markets sold as limoncillo.  It is used in moderation to flavor meat.

The Seri call the plant casol, casol heecto (“small casol”), casol ihasii tiipe (“fragrant casol”), and cacatajc (“what causes vomiting”) and use it medicinally.

The “Pima” (Akimel O’odham) use a decoction (boiled tea) of the plant, or the dried plant itself, as a laxative. Thus the “use it in moderation” consideration.

Image courtesy T. Lebgue.

The “Pueblo” use it as a spice.

The Zuni people take an infusion (steeped tea) of the whole plant as a carminative,*  and use an infusion of the flowers as eye drops for snowblindness.  They also use the chewed flowers as a sort of perfume before dancing in ceremonies of “the secret fraternities.

The Havasupai parch and grind the seeds and use them to make mush and soup. They also dip the fresh plant in salt water and eat it with mush or cornmeal as a condiment.”

* carmative = a herb or preparation used to combat flatulence.

“DYC” Revisited

Now I have thought of a new way to think of this DYC – it’s a “Delightfully Yummy Compositae!”

Image courtesy S. Matson

Legal Notes

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

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