Forage the poreleaf flowers starting to bloom now in the sandy areas of the Sonoran Desert. You can use the leaves too, but our native species is slender poreleaf – meaning they are fairly slight! There are many other things you can forage in this season. Check out our “Forage” page.
Slender poreleaf, also called hierba del venado, odora, (Spanish), xtisil (Seri), bears the scientific name of Porophyllum gracile.
Word Nerd Interjects
If you like word origins you can just look at this scientific name and learn something about the plant. The word gracile has the same root as graceful, poro tells us it has pores, and the one you may not know, phyllum refers to leaves, but enough Latin for now.
Slender poreleaf is a member of the Compositae or sunflower family, and is good for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes. Culinary use is the focus here, especially since last week we discussed reducing excessive salt consumption by adding herbs for flavor to your food.
Slender poreleaf is a native and interesting blue-green evergreen perennial – meaning it is not woody. Low growing, it grows 1 to 2 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide. Best of all it can take full sun and even reflected sun, and also grows well in part shade. It does needs the alkaline desert soils, and does not tolerate over-watering.
Poreleaf Culinary Uses
Poreleaf is not for everyone. The taste is somewhere between arugula, cilantro and the herb called rue. Personally, I like it in salsa. I also crush the dried leaves and add them to hamburger. Careful! A little goes a long way.
In some Mexican markets both fresh and dried poreleaf is available for sale. People crumble dried leaves together with salt and rub it on meat for flavor – basically making a herbal salt like we did last week. One woman told me that it helps the meat stay fresh longer – important in the absence of refrigeration.
Harvest fresh material of the slender poreleaf as needed for salads and salsas, or harvest and dry for later. We discuss how easy it is to dry herbs in this earlier post.
Slender poreleaf appears to be unpalatable to rabbit, javelina, rodents, and deer. Since it is distasteful to deer it is puzzling why it is called “hierba del venado” which translates as “herb of the deer.” Perhaps because it is found in remote areas where deer roam, or perhaps it is good for field dressing deer meat.
Sister to our desert species it Porophyllum ruderale. Bigger leaves – it is commonly grown throughout the warmer areas of the New World and used as a condiment, especially in salsas. Since it is used by many cultures, common names, include Bolivian coriander, quillquiña, yerba porosa, killi, pápalo, tepegua, mampuritu, and pápaloquelite. This species needs more water than our native species, and shade in summer, but taste is much the same. You can buy seed from the fine folks at Terrior Seeds, based in Chino Valley, Arizona.
I used to write for a different site, and some of this information is there. More about what happened with that former collaboration in this brief History of Savor the Southwest.
Father Kino’s Herbs – More Creative Cordials!
The 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 $20! 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!
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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.