Quelites are considered prehispanic greens and already mentioned in the great work of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, “Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España” – finished around 1577- whose eleventh book is dedicated to the quelites: in two paragraphs of chapter VII, paragraph 3 deals ‘with cooked edible herbs’ and paragraph 4 ‘with the herbs that are eaten raw’.
These wild greens as they are called in Mexico are back in fashion just because of their nutritious properties, their cheapness and how easy it’s to cultivate and cook.
Quelite is an umbrella term for edible plants that are recognized as non-weeds from an agroecological point of view, growing spontaneously in agroecosystems like cornfields and also in home gardens. The most known are the huauzontle, watercress, quintoniles, pápalo, purslane, hoja santa, and the romeritos.
According to a document of the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio), the word quelite comes from Nahuatl quilitl, which means vegetable or edible tender plant, and is applied to flowers, leaves, bulbs, and buds of tender trees.
The cultivation of these quelites has been carried out mainly by small farmers, with few external inputs, and based on local knowledge of the species. They are mostly harvested during the rainy season, from July to September, but they can also be harvested throughout the year. Its growth can occur in soils poor in nutrients and water, which makes them tolerant to drought, with low maintenance and without external inputs.
Currently, the inventory of wild edible plants for Mexico is 244 species, 121 genera and 46 botanical families (Mapes and Basurto, 2016).
They were a symbol of wealth and fertility and were also attributed medicinal properties and is it has been proven that contain folic acid, iron, antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C, and certain phytochemicals that help preserve healthy fibre.
This silent héroe of Mexican food rather than simply present in the diet of Mexicans is once again gaining relevance and it seems that they will assume the leading role because they are an accessible, continuous, economical , sustainable and adequate source of nutrients.
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