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What is Quillquina?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Quillquina is a food plant native to Bolivia. It has both medicinal and culinary uses, although it is not commonly found in North America. Its scientific name is Porophyllum ruderale, and it is in the daisy family. It shares a genus with poreleafs such as Gregg’s poreleaf and dwarf poreleaf, as well as with the food plant pipicha, or Porophyllum tagetoides.

Quillquina goes by a number of other names as well. It is sometimes called killi or papalo, and is most commonly referred to as Bolivian coriander. Coriander is a plant known for its dried fruits as a spice in cuisine. Coriander leaves are more commonly referred to as cilantro in the United States, and quillquina has a taste that is somewhere between the taste of cilantro and arugula, hence the name Bolivian coriander.

Quillquina originated in Bolivia, and is used throughout Central America in traditional cuisine. It is also widely cultivated and used in Mexico. Quillquina is most commonly found as an addition to various salsas, and many recipes which in the United States use cilantro would traditionally use quillquina instead. The taste is slightly more bitter, and adds a bit more depth to a salsa than cilantro does in most cases.

Quillquina is preferable to cilantro for many people. It has less of a citrus taste than cilantro does, and also has less of the soapy taste that some people may find in cilantro. For people who dislike cilantro, but want something with a bit more punch than parsley, quillquina can provide an excellent alternative.

The leaves of quillquina are very fragrant, and besides being used as a spice they may also be used as a salad green. In this context they can be seen as most similar to arugula. Quillquina has the same light bitter taste that makes arugula such a popular salad green, but is juicier and has a distinct taste of its own as well.

Medicinally, quillquina has been in use for centuries in Central America. Quillquina is used primarily as a treatment for high blood pressure, although it also has liver cleansing properties on a par with some other bitter greens. Quillquina may either just be ingested straight, or made into a tea with other herbs as a medicine.

Quillquina is not particularly common in the United States. In recent years, however, a number of stores have begun to carry it in response to the wider popularity of Latin American cuisine. Quillquina seeds are also available online and at large seed stores, and the plant is quite easy to grow, requiring similar growing conditions to coriander itself.

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