If you’d like to grow herbs for Tex-Mex dishes, consider adding epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides) to your garden. It forms a many branched herb with a woody lower base. The branches grow about 2-3 feet tall and are covered with inch long light green toothed leaves.
Epazote grows naturally in much of the continental United States and the eastern provinces of Canada. It behaves like a perennial or annual, depending on the local winter temperatures. In Texas it is definitely a hardy perennial. Epazote propagates very easily by seed. Because of this potentially invasive habit, clip the flowers as soon as they appear. Don’t let it go to seed in your garden – unless this is all you want to grow!
The name epazote comes from the Aztec native tongue and roughly translates as “skunk sweat,” which gives you an idea of what some people think of its strong aroma. Traditionally, epazote was used in tea form to combat intestine parasites, which explains the alternate common names of wormseed and Mexican tea.
The light green leaves of epazote are often used in Tex-Mex bean dishes because it is said to reduce the abdominal gas that is sometimes a side-effect of eating beans. Small amounts of fresh or dried epazote can also be added to corn or fish dishes. It is a key ingredient in quesadillas con epazote, a cheese stuffed tortilla with potatoes, mushrooms, and eggs.
Whatever you are cooking, start with small amounts of this herb and use the younger, milder flavored leaves. Like papaloquelite (another Tex-Mex herb), the flavor of epazote is not for everyone. Some find it quite tasty but others have said the flavor is more like “cooking with kerosene.”