February 14, 2012 5:01 PM
Hoja Santa or Hierba Santa
The name Hoja Santa translates to "sacred leaf." The leaves of the hoja santa plant are heart-shaped with a thick velvety texture. These leaves can grow up to a foot and sometimes more. I find them to be truly beautiful. Though hoja santa is found throughout Mexico, it is mostly used in the south.
Mexican cooks use hoja santa judiciously not only because of it's strong, unique, unexpected taste, but also because too much of it is not good for you, just like epazote (continue for more information and photos).
Hoja Santa is used fresh and dried in many different ways in Mexican cooking, from tamales to pozoles to moles to soups. It is also wrapped around meat, seafood and around tamales as an edible wrapper, keeping what's inside moist but also infusing the filling with its peculiar flavor.
Getting back to it's flavor: it's really hard to describe...aromatic, fragrant with a hint of eucalyptus and a whisper of mint. Some people find it similar in taste to anise. I also find a slight echo of black peppercorn and allspice. The only way for you to find out is to give it a try.