Epazote

  • Plant Type: Perennial, zones 8-11
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 2 to 4 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
  • Culinary Use: Fresh or dried leaves for flavoring beans and other dishes

Epazote adds a key, distinct flavor to Mexican cuisine and is a staple ingredient in bean dishes for its taste and its anti-flatulent properties. Plants are evergreen herbs in warmer zones; treat as annuals in colder regions or grow in a container and bring indoors for winter. Epazote is a Central and South American native and has naturalized along roadsides throughout the United States. It grows to 4 feet tall when planted in full sun in average, well-drained soil.

Pregnant or nursing women should not consume epazote in any form. No one should ingest the seeds or oil, which are poisonous. It’s also wise to avoid consuming the flowering tips of stems.

Plant Spacing: 2 to 3 feet. Plants Per Person: 1.

Secrets to Success »

Epazote is native to tropical climes. Plant outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed and when night temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees F. Drainage is important; don’t plant where roots will sit in water. Full sun develops the best flavor in leaves.

In early spring, fertilize epazote with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. This organically based fertilizer is low in salt and won’t cause ugly brown leaf tips. Plants set many seeds; epazote has immense invasive potential. Clip seedheads to limit self-sowing.

Harvest and Use »

Harvest leaves at any point after plants are established. Pick leaves in the morning, after dew dries. Air-dry leaves on screens or gather stems in bunches and hang upside down. Use epazote leaves fresh or dried. The flavor is strong; use sparingly to season dishes until you know the taste your family likes. Older leaves have the strongest flavor; younger leaves are more mild.

Epazote tastes great in refried beans, squash dishes, chili, split pea soup, quesadillas, and egg dishes. The flavor also complements cilantro and green chile peppers, as well as pork, corn, and fish.

Some folks harvest epazote stems and dry them for a wreath base in dried floral creations. Use caution when handling dried epazote; the resin in leaves can cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions in some individuals.

Epazote seeds and oil should never be consumed; both are poisonous. It’s also wise to avoid consuming the flowering tips of stems. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not ingest epazote in any form.

Try these garden companions »

  • Tomatillo and New Mexico 6-4L or Serrano green chile peppers to create a signature mole verde sauce.
  • Assorted peppers, cilantro, garlic, and Roma VF tomatoes for making Mexican fare.
  • Straightneck squash and Candy onion to cook a spicy summer side dish.

From Our Library

Login