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May 2010
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Epazote: characteristics, growing and planting conditions and uses of the plant

Epazote is a rather ordinary and weedy looking herb that is not well known, but it’s definitely worth growing a plant or two in the kitchen garden. This herb is easy to cultivate and can be found growing wild in many parts of the United States and Mexico. It also goes by the names of Mexican Tea and Wormseed.


– An upright green plant with notched leaves, epazote is essential in Mexican bean dishes as a rich flavouring agent and anti-flatulent. It has a challenging “fragrance”, when raw it smells like kerosene!
– Epazote has a distinct taste that cannot be replaced by other herbs. If you do not have access to it, you can leave it out.
– It has multi-branched, reddish stems covered with small, sharply toothed leaves.
– Epazote bears numerous small yellow flowers in clusters along its stems. Following the flowers, it produces thousands of tiny black seeds in small fruit clusters.

Growing and Planting Conditions

– Epazote is not fussy about soil, but wants full sun and good drainage.
– A less-than-rich soil produces the best and most concentrated flavor in the leaves.
– While growing indoor, start seeds in early Spring to move outside after frost in your area.
– While growing outdoors, directly sow every 2-3 weeks from Spring to Summer to ensure lots of leaves.
– Set transplants out every 30cm (12″). Epazote grows quite densely, so thinning is not necessary.
– The plants get quite tall 60cm (24″) so sow a small clump of seeds every 30cm (12″). Bring a plant indoors in a container for the winter to ensure a fresh product.
– When harvesting, gather the leaves so that you have 2tbsp of chopped fresh leaves available to add to 5 cups of cooked beans. It is important to add in the last 15 minutes of cooking. The leaves can be dried, but fresh are better.

Epazote Uses

– It is better known as a culinary herb and is often used in Caribbean and Mexican cuisine.
– It can be likened to cilantro or even arugula in that it has a very distinct flavor.
– The most popular dishes incorporating epazote are unquestionably legumes such as pinto beans and black beans.
– This herb is also featured in soups and other recipes containing eggs or cheeses.
– Epazote is rich in chemicals called monoterpenes. The seed and fruit contain a large amount of essential oil which has a main active chemical in it called ascaridole.

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