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Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides)
Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot family)
The plant is indigenous in Central and Southern México, but is today a common neophyte in Europe and the USA.
Used plant part
Leaves, flowers and unripe fruits; the latter have the strongest flavour. All of these are best used fresh, but since the fresh herb is available only for those with their own garden, the dried herb is also common. Its aroma is still satisfactory.
Epazote's fragrance is strong, but difficult to describe. People often compare it with (in no particular order) citrus, petroleum, savory, mint or putty.
Essential oil with ascaridole (up to 70%), limonene and p-cymene, furthermore numerous other monoterpenes and monoterpene derivatives (a-pinene, myrcene, p-cymene, terpinene, thymol, campher and trans -isocarveol).
Leaf and flowers of epazote
Epazote's strong taste is characteristic of the Mayan cuisine in the South of Mexico and Guatemala. Center of epazote usage in Mexico is the Yucatán peninsular.
The herb is used fresh in soups, salads and meat dishes; it appears in the recipe for mole verde, a Mexican herb sauce. The most common usage is, however, in bean dishes, where the strong antiflatulent powers of epazote additionally motivate its usage. The most commonly epazote flavoured food are Mexican refried beans (frijoles refritos), beans that first get boiled until tender and then are fried in pig's lard to give a coarse mash. Refried beans can be made of any type of small beans, with or without epazote; in Southern México, however, cooks would usually use epazote, especially for black beans. Yet epazote works well of other kinds of beans, e.g. pinto beans, which are more popular and more easily available in the USA and elsewhere.
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