Do you know this Mexican vegetable?

Corn from Mercado La Merced

I found this skinny vegetable, which almost looks like oversized baby corn, at Mercado La Merced a few days ago. The vendor, an older woman with gray hair, told me the name. But she spoke softly and I was too embarrassed to ask her to repeat it. It sounded Nahuatl.

She said you remove the leaves, boil the cob and then shave off the kernels. She also said I could serve it with mole.

Have any of you seen this before? Each piece is roughly a foot long, with bumpy, somewhat soft flesh.

13 Responses to “Do you know this Mexican vegetable?”
  1. Leslie Limon

    I have no idea what that is, but I love playing Name That Food! I’ll show this to my foodie brother-in-law later to see if he knows.

    • Lesley

      Thanks Leslie! Let me know what he says.

  2. Suzanne

    I’m not familiar with it myself, but I’ve consulted with my peeps here, and they believe it’s called tepejilote.

    • Lesley

      Thanks Suzanne. Do you know what they do with it in Oaxaca?

  3. Nate

    Looks like it could be teosinte – a grass that is the ancestor of corn – or a hybrid of the two. Apparently they can cross breed naturally. All the Google results say that “teosinte” is a Nahuatl word meaning something like “mother of corn”.

    • Lesley

      Thanks for weighing in, Nate. I’ve seen teosinte before — it was much skinnier, the width of a pencil maybe. Although there could be several types.

  4. Platanos, Mangoes & Me!

    Never heard of it, but its interesting. Can’t wait for you to use it.

  5. Joseph

    Yes, down here in Tuxtepec they’re called tepejilote as well. I’ve only had them “en escabeche” and served as a side with tacos. I remember them being quite bitter. They may be in sesaon now, I’ve been seeing them more frequently in the fruit stalls in town recently.

    • Lesley

      Thanks for solving the mystery, Joseph! I didn’t realize they grew on a palm — how interesting. And yes, I tried making them last night (simmered gently in hot water, per the suggestion of a chef friend) and they were extremely bitter. Next time I’ll try pickling them.

  6. Gilberto

    In Guatemala and El Salvador they call it “pacaya” and it is also sold pickled here in Iowa

  7. Troy Fleischhaker

    This is a great website Lesley nice work. :)

    • Lesley

      Thanks Troy. Let me know if you’re ever in Mexico City.

  8. MexicoCooks!

    According to a local expert, the bitter/sour tepejilote is peeled little by little and sucked–raw–as a between-meal treat. It’s even given to very young children, who develop a taste for it. As far as I know, it’s not eaten cooked.


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