Crotalaria longirostrata. A.K.A. chepil, chepilin, chipilin and longbeak rattlebox.

An exceedingly rare and hard to find nitrogen fixing and meatode supressing legume from Southern Mexico. Like all other varieties of Chipilin, this one is used to make tamales, soups, stews, etc.

Plants resemble other legume family members-peas and beans- and will grow into a dense, compact bush with high production of delicious edible leaves. can be grown in pots or in the garden. It is ready to harvest at 60 days and is ready to cut again every 2-3 weeks throughout the growing season until frost. In the garden, plants should be spaced 12-36 inches apart, and require very warm temperatures to grow. It is a perennial, and can keep producing for up to 6 years, if protected from freezing temperatures, otherwise being grown as an annual (We are unsure how this may fair in far northern climates being a tropical plant).

Chipilin is very nutritious, being high in protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, beta carotene, and vitamin C. It is commonly used to make traditional dishes in Central America and Southern Mexico. Some of the dishes include tamales de chipilin, soups, dumplings, stews, and other delicious chipilin dishes. It has a wonderful flavor that can be compared to a combination of watercress, spinach, and sorrel. It can also be eaten with rice or noodles, or as a stir-fried side dish with red bell pepper, onions, and garlic. Some individuals cook chipilin with other vegetables including amaranth, cowpeas, beans, pumpkin or squash leaves and flowers.

Please note: As a legume, chipilín has the capacity to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere through a symbiotic relationship with bacterial strains of the genus Rhizobium.  Chipilín seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate, often less that a 10%, due to their extremely hard outer shell. Scarify the seeds with 150 grit sand paper to greatly increase germination rates.

Chipilín, after going to seed, has a reputation of becoming invasive. The sale of Chipilín seeds or plants is banned in Australia and Hawaii.

Seed packets contain 1/4 teaspoon of somewhat small, hard seed. This is around 40-80 seeds. Scarification and soaking in warm water for 24-48 hours may aid germination. 

Brought to us and grown by Mark Homesteader of Homestead Heirloom Gardens in Florida.

Mayan Chipilin


    © 2021 The Roughwood Table. All photos, unless noted, and recipes/text are ©  Roughwood Table.

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