Modern day foraging in urban areas is not necessarily a new idea. With amazing restaurants like Noma, whose philosophy of foraging the local countryside has defined a new tradition, I’m happy to see how much this trend has been embraced and am looking around for a cool class to take some time this summer. This is only relevant because epazote, an herb that’s popular in Mexican cooking, actually grows wild in Central Park! I need to know what other exotic herbs I can grab from the NYC parks…
Epazote otherwise grows wild throughout Mexico, Central and South America, and Caribbean. Also called American wormseed, I’ve read the Aztec translation of the word actually means “skunk sweat” (which seems like one of the last things I’d like to add to food…). The fresh leaves have a strong, petrol-like smell, but the dried form, here, captures some of the flavor of this herb and works well as a tea to aid in digestion.
In Mexican cooking, epazote is a key ingredient in (amongst others) black bean dishes, Oaxacan mole verde, and mole de epazote, a goat casserole. It’s flavor is distinctive and may require some getting used to. Some describe it as soapy (like cilantro), camphorous, and definitely minty. It’s not something you want to add to raw dishes because it’s so pungent, but it doesn’t require long cooking time either; it does the trick in cooked salsas.
To be completely honest, I have not done a ton of cooking with this herb, but it does add beautiful flavor to my (seriously) beefy chili. I’m also working on a roasted tomatillo salsa recipe into which I slip in a bit. Share with me please! What are your favorite ways to use epazote?