Bienvenidos a Los Dos: Ingredients

  Epazote, Apazote Download PDF
Botanical name
Chenopodium ambrosioides

Mayan name
Lukum xîîw

Common English names
Mexican tea, wormseed, goosefoot, skunkweed

• Epazote is a Spanish derivation from the Náhuatl language of the conquest-era Aztecs. It derives from epatl ("skunk") and tzotl ("sweat") – an obvious reference to its strong aroma, as is the common English name "skunkweed". In Yucatán, the word is often pronounced and spelled apazote.
• Chenopodium means “goosefoot” in Greek. The name was chosen for this botanical family because of its distinctive three-lobed leaf shape. Ambrosioides refers to ambrosia – food of the Greek gods.
• Lukum ("worm") xîîw ("herb") obviously refers to the Mayan’s use of the plant as a vermifuge (intestinal worm expellant). It also illuminates the origin of the English common name, "wormseed".
Mexican tea is a name that was popularized due to the plant’s popular use throughout Mexico as a curative infusion.
History and heritage
Epazote originated in the tropical belt of Central America, and in Central and Southern Mexico. The plant is now a neophyte in Europe and the United States. Used for centuries throughout Mesoamerica to expel parasitic worms from the body, epazote is said to be analgesic, antiasthmatic, stomachic and vermifuge. As a digestive remedy, the whole plant is steeped in boiling water and drunk as an infusion. Anecdotally it is incorporated into bean dishes for its anti-flatulence properties. The essential oil from the plant’s seeds has been used as a wound-healing poultice and as a treatment for athlete’s foot and insect bites. Taken in large quantities, epazote can be highly toxic. None of these treatments should be used without first consulting with a medical professional.    

Culinary uses

A pungent, bitter herb with a taste and smell likened variously to citrus, mint, bleach or turpentine, epazote appears throughout Mexico in many recipes, including bean and meat dishes, stews and quesadillas. However, perhaps nowhere in Mexico is it used more than in the Mayan cooking of Yucatán, where most famously a broth of the herb is mixed with green pumpkin seed paste to make the delicious, wholly vegetarian enchilada-type dish known as papadzules. Epazote is available fresh in Mexican markets, or can be purchased dried in the ethnic sections of supermarkets or online. While there really is no substitute for fresh epazote, the dried form can be used effectively to flavor certain dishes, such as beans and soups, in which the visual appeal and stronger taste of the fresh leaf is not of primary importance. One teaspoon of dried epazote leaves is equivalent to about seven fresh leaves.

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