Quelites: the Pre-hispanic superfood

They are mostly not cultivated, but rather grow in the milpas: corn, beans, zucchini, and chili

Quelites: the Pre-hispanic superfood
Quelites are mostly harvested during the rainy season - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 30/09/2018 14:24 Newsroom Mexico City Fernanda Alvarado Actualizada 14:28
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The word “quelite” comes from the Náhuatl quilitl” and means “edible herb”, therefore, every plant with edible foliage, found in the central region of Mexico is called quelite. The most known are the huauzontle, watercress, quintoniles, pápalo, purslane, hoja santa, and the romeritos.

The quelites were eaten by different indigenous communities. They were a symbol of wealth and fertility and were also attributed medicinal properties. They are mostly harvested during the rainy season, from July to September, they can be harvested throughout the year. They are mostly not cultivated, but rather grow in the milpas: corn, beans, zucchini, and chili.


Depending on the quelite, you can eat the leaves, the flower or the fruit, and there are different ways of cooking them: in salads, as a side dish, in soups, as the main dish, or even as infusions.

The UNAM's Biology Institute has a quelites inventory. It explains the 244 varieties, 121 genres belonging to 46 botanical families all over the country.


They are considered as a superfood, as they contain: fiber, folic acid, iron, antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C.

A recent study claims that the consumption of quelites prevents the growth of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which is responsible for causing illnesses such as gastritis, ulcers, and gastric cancer.

Unfortunately, the quelites consumption in Mexico is very low, despite their nutritious properties, its cheapness and how easy it's to cook. Incorporating this ingredient to our everyday meals could contribute to enhancing the quality of our diet, and therefore, the health of thousands of Mexicans.


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