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Epazote
epazote leaves photo by: gourmetsleuth.com

Epazote

Pronounced [eh-paw-ZOH-teh]An herb well-known to Mexican and Caribbean cooking. The name comes from the Aztec (Nahuatl) epazotl.

Article by: Barbara Bowman


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About Epazote

Epazote is an herb well-known to Mexican and Caribbean cooking. The name comes from the Aztec (Nahuatl) epazotl. It is also known as pigweed or Mexican tea and is frequently regarded as a garden pest. It is most commonly used in black bean recipes to ward off some of the "negative" side affects of eating beans. Much like cilantro, it is referred to as an "acquired taste". The herb is quite pungent and some say it smells like gasoline or kerosene.

History And Lore

Epazote (chenopodium ambrosioides) was brought to Europe in the 17th century from Mexico and used in various traditional medicines. The herb was used by the Aztecs as a medicine as well as a culinary herb.

Buy And Store

Epazote can normally be found fresh in Mexican grocery stores or is available air-dried. One teaspoon of dried epazote leaves is equivalent to about one branch, or 7 fresh leaves. Fresh epazote leaves can be placed in a plastic bag and stored for up to 1 week. You can air-dry the fresh leaves and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. 

Buy Online
Purchase dried epazote online at GourmetSleuth.com.

  • epazote 1.75oz
    $5.95
    Epazote leaves - pronounced [eh-paw-ZOH-teh]An herb well-known to Mexican and Carib...
  • epazote dried bulk 1lb
    $13.50
    Epazote leaves - pronounced [eh-paw-ZOH-teh]An herb well-known to Mexican and Carib...
    

Medicinal Uses

Epazote contains compounds which actually act as an anti-gas agent ( referred to as a carminative, which means it reduces gas) when cooked with beans. It's chief use was as an agent to expel intestinal hookworms (wormseed). According to Jessica Houdret (The Ultimate Book of Herbs and Herb Gardening) it has also been "recommended for nervous disorders, asthma, and problems with menstruation). CAUTION: This herb is poisonous in large does.

Culinary Uses And Substitutions

Rick Bayless's (in his book "Authentic Mexican") describes this herb as the well-known essential ingredient in Mexican black bean recipes as well as in quesadillas and some moles (moh-LAYS). 

Substitutions
If you don't have access to epazote, or you simply don't like the flavor you can just omit it from the recipe. No herb has a similiar flavor but like epazote, "savory" compliments the flavor Other complimentary additions include cilantro or parsley. Another option is ajwan seeds, commonly used in Indian cooking. (Foodsubs.com)
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Epazote Recipes

Grow Your Own

Epazote Plant
young epazote plant, photo by : gourmetsleuth.com 

Epazote is easy to grow.   It is an annual and grows to about 2 - 4 feet high.  Plant in the spring in full sun and seeds should germinate in about 7 -14 days and be ready to harvest in  45 - 65 days. The plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions and prefers sandy, loamy soil over dry arid conditions.

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Epazote Nutrition

1 tablespoon, leaves
Calories0.256
Total fat (g)0.004
Saturated fat (g)0
Monounsaturated fat (g)0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)0
Dietary fiber (g)0.112
Protein (g)0.003
Carbohydrate (g)0.060
Cholesterol (mg)0
Sodium (mg)0.344
 Vitamin C (mg)
 0.029