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Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar


Apr 28, 2004, 7:58 AM

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Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar

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Today is tamale day at our house. Gabby and Dorothy are busy in the kitchen chatting and cooking. We brought back what gift packages from Gabby’s folks we could fit into the pickup from a coffee mountain area near Coastal Veracruz: all home kitchen stuff (and home remedy stuff). Included was a sizable roll of hojas de papatla (not Papantla, although your getting warm geographically). Today it mostly pork, but they will make some shrimp.

Ed, you might turn this question over to Fran: what is papatla. It could be a local (even pueblo) word for a plant. The leaves are banana leaf green, about 8” wide, and about 2 feet long. They have a main vein down the center, and parallel radiating veins spaced about 3/8” apart.

Gabby also says that the best flavor comes from hojas de tuna (not nopales) like the ones that grow on here grandfather’s finca. The plant gets one red fruit on it that resembles a strawberry in appearance.

To wash it all down Socorro sent along a few Coke bottles full of concentrated fresh capuline juice already sweetened. This isn’t agua de capuline made from dried capulines like the stuff you city guys are used to. This is seasonal, made from fresh picked capulines with some pulp left in the mix. Just pour a little in you glass, add water (maybe 10 to 1) and drink. It truthfully is much more delicious than agua de capuline from dried capulines. She also sent homebrew liquor made from orange and honey.

Ed and Fran

Apr 28, 2004, 6:58 PM

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Re: [TomG] Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar

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Sorry Tom, Fran says she hasn't heard of a plant called papatla. Must be a local term. Got a photo you could attach to an email that we could use to identify it?




May 4, 2004, 11:00 PM

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Re: [TomG] Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar

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Hi, Tom!
I envy your living in Mexico and eating homemade
tamales! (By the way, the singular is "tamal", without
the "e" on the end).
Anyway, my mother-in-law (que descanse en paz) made delicious tamales in Chiapas with banana leaves!
They are common throughout Central America, too.
They seem to be more slick and a little more greasy, but phenomenal!
Are you sure these papatla leaves are not the regional
name for a type of banana? As you know there are
many different types of bananas.

-La profe


May 5, 2004, 8:13 AM

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Re: [nicind] Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar

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Hi Nicind;
I am not in Mexico now. We returned in late April bring the leaves a other local coastal stuff with us. My wife and a friend from rural Veracruz made the local tamales recipe here in Iowa. That is not as exotic as it sounds, as the leaves, mole, and other local products are often sent up, or carried up by pasajeros. So there is a regular little trickle of exotica up here.
This makes leaves a little harder to identify. It is not banana F. assures me. There are plenty of local around here but until I am down there again and have the plant pointed out I probably won't know it, unless I sent Ed the picture for his wife to check.
It looks like a banana leaf because it is banana green and big, but it has no little rips on the side like a typical banana leaf. Bananas do grow in the area in abundance, and they use these leaves also. So I have every reason to believe F. when she says no, it is something else.
The type of leaf used to wrap the tamal affects the taste and texture as you suggest. There is another leaf from the area that F. says makes really tasty tamales, again not a banana.
The various types of bananas deserves its own discussion. The typical banana (rotan, I believe) we get up here is the least of them. I use to go to the market and come back with our weeks supply of bananas being 4 or 5 different types. We would start with the Dominicos being ripe on purchase and work our way through the little red ones to finish with the best of them all, the fruity manzano (or is it feminine?) banana. The cooking bananas we fry for a dessert with a little sweeten condensed milk and shaved homemade chocolate. That is easy to do up north.
When I was little, I was oblivious to apple types other than green or red, and crab apple. Appreciating the various types, qualities, and flavors is a rich experience. The same thing in bananas.
Sometimes people use different names for the same banana.


May 5, 2004, 11:54 PM

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Re: [TomG] Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar

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Tom G,
Hey I'm from Iowa, too! My Mom used to say she was a CIO = "California-improved Iowan". Sorry, but that is a joke to all the expat Iowans here in California. I suspect that it's funny, because they came all this way and are not really "improved" at all. In Mexico they call me a "mexicana honoraria", because I love my husband's family, and after 40 years of being married to him, I find myself loved and accepted by them.

I read some of your comments to my husband and he reminded me that his mom (de Comitan, Chiapas) used to make tamales with "hojas de momon". I remember that they were delicious! Do you know what momon is? (Accent on the second o )He says he's never seen that plant here, but it grows up to 4 or 5 feet and has very dark sort of purplish leaves.

Gracias por su informe.

-La profe


May 6, 2004, 7:57 AM

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Re: [nicind] Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar

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I know Comitan! I was just down there again a month ago for a few days. It is a very nice place. But I don't know the hojas de momon. There is a tall tropical looking flower that grows here in Iowa that some of the local Mexicans use for tamales. The flower head spikes up on top and is red.

Iowa has exported so many people, especially to California, over the last 50 years that the population is about the same as it was before - except that it has aged. Three years ago the average age here was 58 years old. So the governor tried to get Iowa to be an special immigration exception - that was before 9/11. The question is: who is going to do the work here? The question they didn't write about is: who is going to push all the wheelchairs around? Some of the Mexicans who are here really like it here. They came from small town and ranchos and find small town life to their liking and the relative low cost of living also lets them advance economically faster than California. The ones that have kids also appreciate the high quality of public education. The reason that the young people in Iowa don't like it here and leave ("there is nothing to do") is the same reason that the immigrants like it ("la vida es muy tranquilo aqui"). This is not a ad.

Anyway it is too bad Iowa can't sign a separate trade agreement with Veracruz. They could send us workers, juice oranges, fresh tropical fruit and vegatables, petroleum, and fresh seafood; we could send them corn, beef, pork, soybeans, and old Iowans to escape the winter each year.

Que cosas!

"El Gringo Jalapeño"

May 23, 2004, 7:39 PM

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Re: [TomG] Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar

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¡Hola, amigos! It turns out that there are papatla plants growing in the patio of the ruins of an abandoned inn next to my photography studio in Xalapa. The ruins are almost like a bio-reserve with a myriad of plants, animals, insects and especially fireflies(especially during this time of year) right in downtown Xalapa!
I didn't realize that papatla leaves could be used to make tamales until this post. ¡Kudos, TomG! Keep up the good work everybody!
Roy B. Dudley "El Gringo Jalapeño" See more about Xalapa at


May 23, 2004, 8:23 PM

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Re: ["El Gringo Jalapeño"] Tamales con hoja de papatla y capuline para tomar

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Have at it! Muy sabrosos. Grab some little chunks of pork ribs on your way home…. I trust you wife will make the tamales pica bastante.

I was just in a conversation with two other women from Veracruz - Yecuatla and Martinez de la Torre. We were all in the kitchen gabbing while they were making tamales with banana leaves for a birthday party. I described the leaves in shape, gave no verbal hints, and they though a second... said "yes", and both said "papatla", it grows in the fields. There is a flower that grows up here even in Iowa with big leaves and a red spike flower about 6 feet high. They have used this flower leaves and say that they are somewhat similar to the papatla, although the papatla is a different plant. Up here in Iowa the papatla leaves from Veracruz are prized enough to warrant shipping.

That establishes the use of the word "papatla", at minimun, on a wiggly line between Xalapa and Martinez de la Torre passing through Misantla. This is a very beautiful drive and I recommend it, Roy. On the way you can stop at Naolinco and get some fancy shoes or boots made, Mislantla and order a houseful of furniture crafted in cedro, caoba, or unnamed exotic woods, load up on capoline and just inch your way over to Martinez where you fill your trunk with oranges. Your in Totonac country.

Jes, how do they do it! If Veracruz didn’t have to carry all of Mexico on its back it would be as rich as California.