September 2010
The Herb Farm

Epazote and Culantro are Tasty Additions to Summertime Fare

When the weather gets arid and hot here in Alabama, I am reminded of the deserts of Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico where it can get hot enough to fry an egg on a rock!

When it gets that hot, there’s nothing that tastes as refreshing as good old traditional Mexican food. I’m not talking about the taco-salad, chili-powdered ground beef, drive-thru window with a dollar-off coupon meal you season with an easy to open packet of brown sauce. I’m talking about a real traditional meal with all the traditional ingredients and seasonings added individually by hand. I’m talking about genuine tortillas made fresh on the spot using masa de maíz or corn meal and beef, pork or chicken that’s cut into chunks or strips instead of prepackaged ground meat. I’m talking about meat seasoned with oregano, cayenne, cumin, mint and epazote instead of instant chili powder with MSG. I’m talking about topping this dish with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onion and jalapeños, then adding chopped cilantro and squeezing fresh lime juice over it all. Now, that’s a refreshing, healthy meal.

Oh, my…I’m suddenly hungry. Let’s get back on track here.

Two very popular herbs that are sometimes hard to find in the plant nurseries are epazote and culantro.

Epazote (Dysphania ambro-sioides) is a sub-tropical annual growing naturally from Mexico to South America. It has a very strong, distinct flavor in a category all its own. It is a key ingredient in many dishes like the one I described. Epazote is one of those herbs, when left out of the seasoning, is very noticeable.

Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) is another herb native to Mexico and South America. It is grown as a perennial in most places and has been naturalized in Florida and Georgia. It is cultivated around the world. Although culantro is confused with cilantro and tastes very similar, they are totally different. All parts of this plant can be used in cooking.

I grow these herbs and have found epazote is more of a short-lived perennial when protected from cold weather. Culantro, on the other hand, grows more like an annual for me.

Find these herbs in your local garden shop, grow them, find some recipes and experiment with them in cooking. I believe you’ll find they are tasty additions to a refreshing, hot weather meal.

For more information on these and other culinary herbs, e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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If you have any questions about this topic, e-mail me at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I’ll tell you all I know. As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.