The epazote herb is commonly used in central and southern Mexico and Guatemala cuisines and traditional medicines. Epazote has a strong taste and aroma, so not everyone takes to it immediately. It can be somewhat of an acquired taste, but it adds a wonderful rustic layer of flavor to many dishes. While it is best to use fresh Epazote, the dried form can be used if no fresh herbs are available. The peak season for the herb is in winter, but it is available year-round.
What is Epazote?
The fresh leaves and tender stems of the herb epazote, pronounced eh-pah-ZOH-teh, are both used in cooking. The epazote plant can grow up to 4 feet tall and has a lot of leaves. Its dark green, long, slender, jagged leaves end in a point. The flowers are small and green, and they make a lot of tiny seeds. It can be an annual or a short-lived perennial. It is a herb for gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and paleo diets.
Epazote is a plant that grows naturally in southern Mexico, Central America, and South America. It is also grown in warm, temperate parts of North America and Europe, where it sometimes becomes an invasive species. Epazote is a leafy vegetable and a herb that is used in cooking. It is also valued for its medicinal properties. The plant is often served with beans because it keeps people from getting gassy.
Epazote can be an annual plant or a short-lived perennial plant. It has long, narrow leaves and tiny, green flowers that can turn into small fruits that can all be eaten. If the flowers of Epazote get enough light, they can turn a deep, bright purple. For cooking, fresh Epazote is best, but dried Epazote can be used instead. Raw Epazote has a strong smell compared to mint, lemon, gasoline, and savory, among other things.
The raw plant also has a strong flavor, like anise or fennel, but stronger. The word “skunk sweat” in Nahuatl is where the word “epazote” comes from. Other names for the herb, such as the Scandinavian word for “lemon” and the Latin name Chenopodium ambrosioides, suggest that it has a pleasant smell. In Greek mythology, ambrosia was the food of the gods.
What does Epazote Taste Like?
The name “epazote” comes from a Nahuatl word that means “skunk sweat.” many say that Epazote tastes “medicinal” because it has a strong taste. It smells like oregano, anise, citrus, mint, and even creosote or tar. Fresh leaves and stems have the most flavor, and older leaves have a stronger flavor.
You can buy dried Epazote, but it doesn’t have as much flavor as dried cilantro. When you first smell epazote, you might not want to cook with it because it smells like gasoline. Eating the leaves alone might taste like a strange mix of turpentine, mint, citrus, pine, oregano, anise, and mustard greens.
How to Cook with Epazote?
Because Epazote’s flavor compounds don’t last long when heated, the herb is added to dishes near the end of cooking. The tender leaves and stems are used. Fresh leaves and stems are best, but dried leaves and stems can also be used. One fresh stem is equal to one teaspoon of the dried herb. In addition to adding flavor, Epazote is said to help people who get gas and bloating after eating beans and cruciferous vegetables.
Recipes with Epazote
Most of the time, Epazote is used to season pot beans (frijoles de la olla), especially when they are black beans. It is also often used in stews and country-style dishes with mushrooms or corn. Corn tortilla quesadillas often have a sprig of the herb inside.
- Refried Beans
- Pozole de Pollo: Chicken Pozole
- Traditional Fried Mexican Quesadillas
Where to Buy Epazote?
In its home country, the leaves and stems of this plant are almost always used fresh. Some Mexican grocery stores and farmers’ markets sell it by the bunch. If you can’t get it fresh, you can grow it yourself. It is a hardy annual that is easy to grow. If you can’t find epazote seeds at your local garden center, you can look for them online.
If you can’t get it fresh or grow it yourself, try to get some of the herbs in dried form. You’ll likely find these in a Mexican grocery store or a supermarket’s Hispanic food section with many options. The dried version of this herb will have a much milder flavor, but it will give you a real Mexican taste that you can’t get anywhere else.
If you live in Mexico, you can easily buy Epazote at your local market or from people who sell fruit and vegetables. Some of your neighbors might even be growing it. For people who don’t live in Mexico, fresh and dried Epazote can be bought at Latin food markets in the United States. Also, dried Epazote is sold online, even in Europe, and you can find it there.
Fresh Epazote can be kept by putting the stems in a glass of water (like you would with cut flowers) or wrapping the leaves in a damp paper towel and putting them in an open plastic bag. You can put epazote leaves in a tray of water to freeze them. Most recipes call for the amount that one frozen cube gives you.
If you put the leaves and soft parts of the stems of Epazote in a plastic bag, you can keep them in the fridge for about four days. Please keep them in the bottom of the fridge or the vegetable drawer. You can also freeze or dry Epazote to keep it for a longer time (freezing them is the best option for preserving their flavor and aroma).
What is Epazote Good for?
Epazote’s health benefits include reducing gas, easing breathing problems, getting rid of parasites, speeding up the metabolism, protecting the immune system, helping with weight loss, healing wounds, and easing the pain of menstruation. Epazote has a lot of vitamins and minerals in it, like vitamin A, vitamin B (specifically folic acid), vitamin C, calcium, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc. It also has a small amount of protein and dietary fiber.
May Promote Weight Loss
One hundred grams of Epazote has only 32 calories, but it contains vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds that your body needs. So, if you want to lose weight, stay healthy, and feel full, this plant with lots of fiber and nutrients is a great choice!
May Help Treat Worms
One of the other most common ways that Epazote was used in the past was to treat different kinds of worms. The active ingredients can kill hookworms, roundworms, and other parasitic worms in the body in Epazote. This makes it a great food to eat in places where people may not have access to clean water or basic sanitation.
May Improve Metabolic Activity
The B-complex family of vitamins can be very important for human health. Each member has a slightly different role in human health, but they are all related to the strength and efficiency of metabolism. Epazote contains a lot of six different B vitamins, especially folic acid. Folic acid is important for proper growth and development, and a single serving of Epazote may have more than 50% of the daily recommended amount.
May Boost Immunity
This herb is important for the immune system because it may contain small amounts of vitamin A, other carotenes, and antioxidant compounds. The antioxidant properties of Epazote may protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals and can also stop free radicals from causing diseases that last a long time.
May Improve Bone Health
Because Epazote contains many minerals, it can help protect your bones as you age. High calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese help build bone mineral density and prevent osteoporosis. This means your bones will stay strong and healthy well into your later years.
May Help Improve Blood Pressure and Heart Health
Potassium is one of the most important minerals in our bodies that is often overlooked. The small amounts of potassium in Epazote can act as vasodilators, relaxing the blood vessels and easing the strain on our cardiovascular system. This makes it less likely that we will get atherosclerosis, which protects us from heart attacks and strokes.
Even though Epazote is usually served with black beans, it can be used in many other ways. It is used a lot in the food of southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is a key ingredient in some foods, like mole Verde. Epazote is said to have a wide range of medical uses. You can eat it raw or make a tea out of it to treat digestive problems, menstrual problems, sinus problems, malaria, hysteria, and asthma.
People say that the herb’s essential oil can stop spasms and stop pregnancy, as well as kill intestinal worms. It has been used to treat people and animals in this last way, but too much of it can be dangerous. One of the other names for the plant, “wormseed,” refers to this quality.