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University of Illinois Extension
Herb Gardening

Epazote

Epazote

Chenopodium ambrosioides

Annual

Description

Epazote is a large, loosely branched almost weedy looking annual growing to about 4 feet tall with reddish stems.  The leaves are green and sharply toothed.  The plant produces small yellow-green flowers along its stem. Its flavor is extremely strong and distinctive and has been compared to a combination of cilantro, anise, strong licorice, pine, camphor and eucalyptus.

Culture

Epazote is extremely easy to grow from seed in a full sun location with moist, well-drained soil.  In order to have a fresh supply of leaves it is suggested to make successive sowings of Epazote every 2-3 weeks.  Epazote self-seeds very freely and may become invasive in the garden. 

Harvesting

Harvest the tips of the stems on a regular basis.  This will supply you with young tender leaves and will result in the plant becoming more compact and bushy. This also helps to limit the production of flowers and reduce the amount of seed produced.  Leaves can be used fresh or dried.  Older leaves have the strongest flavor while young leaves tend to be milder.  Fresh stems can be cut and held in water or stored in a refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in an unsealed plastic bag.

Use

Epazote is considered to be one of the most important herbs in the preparation of traditional Mexican dishes including tamales, salsa, black beans, enchilada and mole.   

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