Epazote, Chenopodium ambrosioides

You know how sometimes, when you’re genuinely trying to find information on something via Google, you end up wandering off the trail and manage to find something unexpected? Well, that happened to me this morning.

Epazote, Chenapodium ambrosioides
Epazote, used to season some Mexican foods

I found epazote!

Okay, to explain:

Last summer, our Haitian friend Chewan visited and collected some moringa shoots and leaves. He’s always excited when he discovers something “from home” around here. Sometimes we have very different uses for the same plant and so it becomes a learning experience for both of us.

That particular day, he spied a bushy plant that I was planning to dig out because it appeared to be totally useless. It was growing in the chicken yard and was the only green thing left because the chickens absolutely didn’t like it. Chewan ran over to it, grabbed a handful of leaves, and held them close to his nose. Then he nibbled a bit of one… and grinned ear to ear.

He asked if he could gather some of these leaves. I was about to tell him he could take the entire plant but then thought better of it. If Chewan wanted some leaves, they had a use after all and I wanted to learn about it.

He couldn’t remember the name of the plant but he said it was something “from home”. His father used to gather the leaves and make tea with them. He remembered drinking it regularly when he was a child. He told me there were other uses for the leaves but he wanted to make tea. I told him to take as much as he wanted.

Ever since that day, I’ve watched that plant get larger and larger… while I grew more and more frustrated with trying to identify it. I thought perhaps it would be easier to identify when it bloomed. No such luck. The blooms were so tiny as to be nearly invisible… and they were the same shade of green as the leaves!

Now, six months later, my sister and I have started a small business growing and selling herb plants. Visit Two Sisters Farm to learn more about that. And I was looking for more and different plants to add to our collection, since we have somehow become the go-to source for “rare and unusual” herbs around here.

Imagine my shock when I spied a picture of our “weed”! I went off on that tangent search for more information… and discovered that the plant is indeed epazote, a common ingredient in Mexican cooking. I even found pictures of the plant in bloom. There is absolutely no doubt as to its identification. And then I tried tasting a leaf…. as stated in one article, it is somewhat reminiscent of cilantro and is an acquired taste, just as cilantro happens to be. One that I haven’t acquired, by the way.

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