Hoja Santum – Hierba Santa, Piper sanctum (piper auritum)This distinctive herb adds ornamental playfulness to any garden in spring and summer. Its semiwoodsy growth with continuously emerging new shoots quickly commands your attention with its large, heart-shaped leaves. Each multiple branch spreads with ever larger heart-shaped leaves, 8 by 10 inches or more. Through summer it launches spikes of rough, white flowers. The fruit that follow are hard and inedible.

Planting & Care

Tolerates sunny locations if watered frequently, but prefer a shady afternoon soil with rich well drained soil. A slight freeze will cause the leaves to die back, but plants rebound rapidly when warm weather returns.

Harvesting and Use.

Mexican cooks have wrapped foods in folded hoja santa leaf packets for cooking over hot fires. When heated the leaves produce a sweet, musky anise steam. Steaming is okay but we do not recommend eating the leaves because we have seen some recent studies indicate that hoja santa may be carcinogenic.

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