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 then ground, for culinary use.
Mexican avocado trees, drimifolia, are fine for human consumption. Sri Lankan avocado leaves are ground for spice as well. Some other species leaves, though, are not very tasty. Guatemalan leaves are mildly toxic (See Health Warning, below).
Mexico’s ground avocado leaves have a somewhat nutty aroma, akin to hazelnut. The flavor is mellow, with notes of anise, and tarragon. Avocado leaves can be used as a substitute for Hoja Santa, Mexican pepperleaf, although the flavors are a bit different.
Globally, I find that the ground is similar to a blend of fennel pollen, and mace, but it would be hard to reproduce unless you’ve tasted the real deal first.
The Sri Lankan has a decidedly different taste, best suited for tea, and curries.
You can grind your own, from more commonly available whole dried leaves, which provides a bit fresher taste, but, depending on the spice mill/coffee grinder, the consistency may differ greatly from the commercial, as leaves are often harder to get into a uniform grind.
While avocados are grown all over the world, Mexico, and Sri Lanka, are the only two countries that produce dried avocado leaf powder, at this writing.
Avocado 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:
- The anisette pop in my Avocado Pepita Muffins;
- 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 molidas
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