Jambú – the toothache plant

Jambú is a flowering herb plant, also known as toothache plant or paracress as the leaves and flower heads contain an analgesic agent spilanthol used to numb toothache. It is native to the tropics of Brazil, and is grown as an ornamental (and occasionally as a medicinal) in various parts of the world. A small, erect plant, it grows quickly and sends up gold and red flower inflorescences. It is frost-sensitive but perennial in warmer climates. The name paracress is in reference to the Northern Brazil state Pará. It is also known in Portuguese as agrião do Pará (as well as jambú).

For culinary purposes, small amounts of shredded fresh leaves add a unique flavour to salads. Cooked leaves lose their strong flavour and may be used as leafy greens. Both fresh and cooked leaves are used in dishes (such as stews like tacacá) in Belém and other parts of Northern Brazil, often combined with chillies and garlic to add flavor and vitamins to other foods.

Eating a whole flower bud results in a grassy taste, followed by an extremely strong tingling or numbing sensation and often excessive saliva production and a cooling sensation in the throat. If you are looking for a unique combination when in Belém, go to the restaurant Café Imaginário for a jambú pizza.