Epazote: An unsung hero of Mexican cooking

October 13, 2014 | Posted by Charlotte March

Repeat after me: eh-paw-ZOH-tay.

If you have a thing for beans, you'll want to get to know and love this Mexican herb -- not just for its flavor, but for its function (it is said to combat the, ahem, negative side effects of eating beans).

It has an acquired taste -- one that I have truly developed a love for. Eaten raw, it is somewhere between pine, citrus and turpentine (that is to say: weird but really good). I love using it not just in beans, but also in salads, quesadillas, sautéed vegetables, salsas, guacamole and, of course, tacos.

North of the border, it's called pigweed; its long, pointy leaves can be found growing wild just about everywhere, from backyards in Long Island to California highway medians. If you'd prefer not to forage, epazote is sold both fresh and dried in most hispanic grocery stores -- like my favorite in San Francisco’s Mission District, Casa Guadalupe. If stored properly, wrapped in damp paper towels and refrigerated in a plastic bag, epazote will keep for well over a week.

What to do with your leafy haul? Add a couple sprigs to a pot of pinto beans (I'm hooked on Rancho Gordo's), along with a few cloves of garlic and half an onion. Epazote imparts a pretty tame, if somewhat undetectable flavor, but I can say from experience that it has the carminative affects promised.

Simmer the beans for a few hours, and then tuck them into one of my new favorite tacos: fresh epazote leaves, avocado, a squeeze of lime, and a few glugs of Cholula.

The rest of my epazote bundle will be added to soup, scrambled eggs, and another pot of beans. Buen provecho!