The culinary garden – The power flower – paracress

The term “power flower” was invented by gourmet chefs to describe what is actually Paracress (Berro de Pará) which is neither cress nor electric. Native to Pará in Brazil, the herb has a very particular pungency. The spicy flavor of Pará Berro has no equivalent with other spices. The bitter and pungent taste of the plant causes a unique feeling in the mouth numbing the tongue and taste buds, hence the English used it to soothe toothaches. Paracress is a perennial (annual in temperate climates) with leaves that are 11cm long and 8cm wide. The flowers are gathered in small yellow clusters. All parts of the plant have a pungent taste, that is more pronounced in the flowers. In the Indian Ocean Islands and India, the leaves are eaten steamed. In Brazil and India, the fresh leaves are used to enhance the flavor of salads, soups and meat. Nuevo Cuisine chefs prefer to use the flowers, especially in salads. In medicine, the flowers are used fresh or dried, reduced to a powder, mainly against toothache, throat infections and sore gums. The plant, particularly the red-flowered variety, is also grown as an ornamental plant. Paracress is easily propagated by seeds sown in spring. It grows well in summer, in well fertilised, fresh soil.

François-Luc Gauthier, aromaticultor

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