Epazote / Skunk Weed


I never fail to visit the Herbana Farms stall when I make it to the Salcedo Market. They almost always have something interesting and since I have been buying from them since they had a table at the original Greenbelt Organic Market eons ago, they also know I am a sucker for unusual stuff. Also, I trust that whatever they are selling, it is actually organically grown…unlike others who may claim the same. So when they encouraged me to buy this unusual looking herb that had a rather pungent smell, I took a bunch home. Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides), otherwise referred to as Skunk weed, Pigweed or Wormseed, is believed to have originated in Southern Mexico and it is an indispensable part of the cookery of that region, according to The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices by Tony Hill.

Epazote apparently grows wild in Mexico and in some southern U.S. states. Its dark green serrated leaves give off a strong aroma, and it seems these leaves are often skunkweed2cooked with black beans or other bean dishes, apparently to temper the “toot” factor. Used fresh or dried, it is something I have never come across before and have never cooked with. A lady who was shopping at Herbana Farms at the same time also suggested using it in a very authentic sounding guacamole…now what are the chances of running into someone who actually knew what to do with this? Alan Davidson describes epazote as one of the three “secret ingredients” of Mexican and Caribbean cooking, along with cilantro/coriander and cumin. While I immediately purchased some dried black beans to give this herb a go for it, I never got around to cooking the beans before the herb expired so I will have to save the recipe testing for another day. At any rate, as usual, I am just thrilled to see the availability of unusual (for this part of the globe) herbs at our local markets…


21 Responses

  1. MM, you are really some shopper. I would never expect to find epazote in a Philippine produce market. Yes, it goes with dried black beans!…and only black beans! THat’s what I learned from my Mexican friends, and never thought to ask them why I may not put epazote on pinto or other beans. I cook my dried black beans with 3-4 whole cloves of garlic and a quartered onion in plain water. When the beans are tender, I add a couple leaves and a teaspoon of bacon fat(or substitute with same quantity of olive oil). It keeps well in the fridge. Great for quick bean and cheese quesadillas. I also use epazote when I make my chilaquiles. I am sure you will find great recipes for chilaquiles from your sources. As usual, tear a couple of leaves and add it in. Use your leaves sparingly. Don’t hesitate to freeze some, if you’ve got a lot. I have epazote growing in a shaded area of the garden and it thrives well on its own. Good luck with the kitchen adventures!!

  2. Hmm, first time to see it fresh. I think I have seen it dried and used by an aunt for tea.I wonder how does it really taste like?

  3. I noticed myself that the epazote, along with the culantro (saw tooth coriander) and hojas de aguacate (dried avocado leaves), recently have been featured prominently on Latin and Caribbean dishes and menus.

    Some recipes suggest substituting Mexican oregano and mint if epazote is not available. However, the dish ends up not having that musky, minty taste the epazote imparts.

    As for the frijoles negros, using epazote is a must—not just for the flavor, but definitely for its antiflatulent properties.

  4. Yes, it is indeed part of Mexican cookery. It is one of the most flavor enhancer in their menudo dish which consists of beef offal i.e., tripe, chile and beans which is ubiquitous in their culture. They said menudo is their antidote for hang over after a night out of tequila shots straight tequila mind you. So as their authentic burrito, chile relleno, carne asada, quesadilla, enchilada, chimichangas guacamole, refried beans, mole, the list goes and on and epazote is always in there. I never cook with it but I’m limited to restaurant food that use this herb. It has a pleasant taste and they said a pinch of it goes a long way. I agree with Kieran they use it a lot in their beans dish for its antiflatulent power. You know beans always have tendency to propel unpleasant gas propulsion.

  5. One of my favorite Food Network shows in the early days was “Two Hot Tamales.” They talked about this herb a lot and I know they have some cookbooks out there. It would be interesting to see how they used it.

  6. you know what MM. . . we use this herb in Vigan for a chicken stew called “pipian”, crushed rice grains is also added in the stew (i think they don’t have a thickening agent before) and annato for coloring plus kamias fruit for a bit of acidity, this stew is generally eaten for merienda but i think it is more like “ulam”, main dish for me, it is really really good and the herb gives a different flavor. . . we call the herb “pasotes” and it is quite strong. . .

  7. haha . . .i remember one thing that happened to one of my lolas who hand carried a “pasotes” plant to manila by bus, and the security keeps on insisting it is marijuana, arguing that she used it for cooking “pipian”. . . well it was a long argument. . .

  8. WIL-B, I’m pleased to encounter someone not related to my Ilocano in-laws who knows “pasotes” and “pipian”. I like pipian even if it’s so strange…It has roasted ground rice like kare-kare, soured by kamias like sinigang, coloured with annatto, but is a chicken dish!

  9. I love Mexican food but haven’t tried cooking with epazote, still have to find some in the market. I read somewhere that it’s usually not available outside Mexico unless you grow your own, I’m glad to know that it grows in here. If it relieves flatulence, does it mean it would go well with camote, cabbage or onions too?

  10. 33 in sydney. . . yeah, it could be strange to some people but the dish really is good. . .

  11. Wow, there is epazote here! The taste and usage can be similar to aseofetida resin of India.

  12. My friend from Mexico City says that epazote is an essential seasoning when preparing Chicken Tortilla Soup.

  13. I live in one of the Spanish neighborhood here and I always see the epazote herb in the market I frequent, it’s too bad that I never bother to find out what or how they use the herb. Well, I always learn a thing or two whenever I visit your site. Thank you for sharing.

  14. I’m soooooo jealous! I’ve got a pot of black beans on the stove right now and had to make do with dried epazote. If you do a post on fresh poblano chilies, tomatillo, or masa sold in Manila that will really drive me over the edge…..

  15. i actually know one dish that uses epazote.
    here in vigan we actually call it pazotes,
    and we use it in a chicken dish called pepian,
    a kare-kare like dish, which is the same color, with ground rice, and kamias! sour but actually very very good.
    but i dont eat the pazote leaves, just the chicken and the ground rice part. that herb is quite abundant in ilocos. :)
    they sell a whole bunch of those for like 2pesos only.

  16. wyatt, yes, it does add that special something to pipian… I will also be featuring a version I made from scratch after having a great pipian in Ilocos Sur…

  17. Mmmmmm….. epazote. I keep planting it but hubby gets it confused with the weeds. Kind of an ugly rangy so & so isn’t it?

  18. Will wonders never cease. I was checking out the internet looking for pasyotes – this herb that Cebuanos from Carcar are very very familiar with. Pasyotes is used in lechon and inasal na manok in Carcar. The aroma actually blends very well with inasal, and i’ve associated it for the longest time with my grandparents’ (Silva) ancestral house in Carcar. Time to check out the Salcedo Saturday market for this one….



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