by Barbara Porsch Master Gardener,Herb Enthusiast
This month we will talk about Epazote (Chenopodiumambrosioides). Epazote is considered an annual. HOWEVER, once you grow it you will never be without it for it self-sows freely. As soon as I see seed heads forming, I try to prune them off but it still manages to throw out many little seeds....thousands!! Epazote is definitely an ethnic herb, widely used in Mexican cooking and considered exotic by some. But I think anything that will grow through the cracks in an asphalt parking lot has a category all its own.
The Spanish name, epazote, is from Aztec words meaning an animal with the smell of a skunk. The genus name Chenopodium is derived from Greek words for “goose” and “foot” and refer to the shape of its leaves. Lucinda Hutson’s Herb Garden Cookbook has many excellent recipes using epazote. It has also been designated the “social” herb because it is supposed to prevent gas from frijoles.
When using epazote in cooked dishes do not put it in until the last 10 to 15 minutes to prevent the food from being bitter. Just like cilantro, epazote is an assertive herb with an acquired taste. It is widely used in central and southern Mexico and Yucatan to flavor black beans, chicken and corn soups and in tamale pies. In some areas they use it with mushrooms and fish. In the southwest, it is used in green beans, seafood, mole or pipianverde (green pumpkin seed sauce) and cheese quesadillas.
In Oaxacan markets, fresh bundles of epazote hang from the rafters. Women make tea with it to rid the body of intestinal parasites. Once I even read that Howard Garrett soaked the leaves in water and used it as bug spray. Go figure. This is really a one-size-fits-all herb. If it is not available at our plant sale, just give me a call and I probably can help you out.
Mushrooms with Epazote
1⁄4 cup oil
3 cups mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
or quartered, depending on size
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1⁄4 cup (generous) epazote, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 roasted tomatoes, chopped (can peel and seed if you want but I don’t because I like the roasted taste of the peel)
Heat oil until hot and fry mushrooms, garlic, epazote and salt. Add tomatoes. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Quickly cook away some of the excess juice. Serve with hot tortillas, or chips. I also used it in an omelet. Hongos al Epazote