WHAT IS IT?
Avocado leaves are a very special part of Mexican cuisine that is seldom seen outside of their borders. A most delicate flavor, the leaves are toasted, and dried, for culinary use.
Mexican avocado trees, drimifolia, are fine for human consumption. Some other species leaves are not very tasty. Guatemalan leaves are mildly toxic (See Health Warning, below).
The big leaf can be ground, but it is, like bay leaf, best suited to augment liquids, or as part of a crude dry rub.
Avocado leaves have a somewhat nutty aroma, akin to hazelnut. The flavor is mellow, with notes of anise, and tarragon. They can be used as a substitute for Hoja Santa, Mexican pepperleaf, although the flavors are quite different. Globally, I find that avocado leaves are similar to a blend of fennel, and mace.
The Sri Lankan has a decidedly different taste, best suited for tea, and curries.
Avocados are grown all over the world. The trees are native to a range from Mexico, to the Andes mountains.
Commercially, Mexico produces the majority of the world’s avocados, and avocado products, with the majority of Mexican avocado production, 92%, in the state of Michoacán, in the West-Central part of the country. Nayarit, Jalisco, Morelos, and México make up the majority of the rest of commercial production.
Best to buy culinary grade leaves from a supplier. The leaves of one avocado cultivar are toxic, and several are not very tasty.
At this writing, only the avocado leaves of the “Guatemala” avocado, (Persea American) are known to be toxic. The culinary grade Mexican varietal, with Latin name drymifolia, is not.
A 1984 study, done by Dr. Arthur L. Craigmill, at the University of California, at Davis, showed some toxic effects from the ingestion of very large amounts of Guatemalan avocado leaves by dairy goats.
- Mole Hip – A goat mole with tomatillo and avocado leaf;
- Enfrijoladas – A traditional Mexican bean with onion, garlic, and avocado leaves;
- Oaxaca-style Refritos – Spicy, flavorful black beans with Chile de Arbol;
- Pipián – A green mole made with pipián squash, and ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds);
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Mole verde ribs;
- Broadening flavor in my Butternut Squash Stew, or butternut squash soup, or roast squashes;
- Oaxacan roasted sea bass;
- Kickin’ kibbeh;
- White corn spice cake.
Avocados can be traced back to 10,000 BCE. Their culinary use begins around 900 ACE. There is no sure date when the leaves were used culinarily, although they were known to both Mayan, and Aztec culture as folk remedies. The dried leaves that have been a part of the cuisines of Central, and Southern Mexico are derived from those ancient cultures’ foods, and recipes.
- Hojas de aguacate
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