October 25, 2005

Epazote is a rather ordinary and weedy looking herb that is not well known, but it’s definitely worth growing a plant or two in the kitchen garden.

Although unheard of by most gardeners, this herb is easy to cultivate and can be found growing wild in many parts of the United States and Mexico. It also goes by the names of Mexican Tea and Wormseed.

Epazote Uses and Recipes

Epazote is reputed to have some beneficial medicinal uses, but it is better known as a culinary herb and is often used in Caribbean and Mexican cuisine. It can be likened to cilantro or even arugula in that it has a very distinct flavor that you’ll either love or hate.

The most popular dishes incorporating epazote are unquestionably legumes such as pinto beans and black beans. This herb is also featured in soups and other recipes containing eggs or cheeses. I’ve seen some reports questioning the toxicity of consuming large quantities of epazote, so this is an herb that I only use occasionally and in moderation as a seasoning.

Epazote from the Grocer or the Garden

You won’t find epazote on the shelves of your local grocer so if you want to try it you’ll either have to find some growing in the wild or plant it in your herb garden. I have seen dried epazote for sale occasionally at organic food stores or specialty ethnic grocery stores but it’s much better to use the fresh leaves.

Although it is easy to grow, the biggest challenge may be locating a source for epazote seeds. This branching herb will grow three to four feet in height and one plant will supply more than enough for average kitchen uses. Epazote has medium green serrated leaves with a very pungent aroma when crushed.

Although epazote is a tender annual, once it is established you’ll discover volunteers growing in the garden during following seasons. So if you train your eye to distinguish the young seedling from a useless weed, this can be one of those naturalizing plants that you cultivate one time and then enjoy it forever without the need for replanting.

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  • Dinorah

    Hi! I was very surprised to see that anyone on this side of the border would know what epazote is! I could almost smell it, wait, I can! Mmm, my mother taught me to use it inside cheese and zucchini flower quesadillas (homemade corn tortillas, of course), in pinto bean soup and in pork stew. Where did you get the plant or seeds? I’d love to have it around, especially now that she’s gone.

  • Hi Dinorah. Those cheese and zucchini flower quesadillas sure sound delicious! I’ve never seen Epazote plants for sale, but you can obtain seeds from a few specialty herb seed suppliers. I believe my seed was purchased from Nichols Garden Nursery. Better yet, if you know someone that’s growing it, the plant produces a ton of seed that they could share. In fact, I’d bet that you could find someone who is willing to trade all the Epazote seeds you could grow, in exchange for your quesadilla recipe (hint, hint)! Seriously, send me an email and I’ll see if I can locate a few seeds for you.

  • I have an epazote plant. We have a great herb festival every year and you can always find all kinds of herbs. My only problem is that I don’t know where to plant my epazote plant. Is it a good companion plant for anything?

  • Kenny Point

    June, Epazote can be planted pretty much anywhere just keep in mind that it grows tall and will spread out a bit as it becomes bushy. Epazote will also naturalize in your garden if you allow it to set seeds. I like to plant it in a bed that contains perennial herb or vegetable plants. The volunteers sprout every year and aren’t disturbed by cultivation if you grow your Epazote in a perennial bed. The volunteers are easy to control though so you can allow this herb to grow in any part of the garden without worry over it becoming a troublesome weed.

  • Margot

    Does anyone know if epazote can be grown as far north as Victoria, BC, Canada? It’s in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Margot, I’m sure that you can grow epazote during your spring-summer growing seasons. Even if you garden in a cold weather region with a short growing season, epazote is a very fast growing herb and much hardier than herbs such as basil and cilantro. Just plant the epazote seeds in the spring after the weather warms and it will grow like a weed with little care required. It will also self seed and return each season once it has become established in the garden.

  • Miguel

    I am looking for epazote seeds, I live in San Francisco bay (Redwood City). Could you let me know if I could get it from you and how.


    Miguel Tapia

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Miguel, During the summer I always have epazote plants in the garden producing seed. This herb self seeds easily and new plants germinate every spring. Unfortunately I don’t have any epazote seeds saved that I can share with you right now, but you can find them listed at Nichols Garden Nursery.

  • Corsair


    I ordered epazote from the following supplier in British Columbia: Salt Spring Seeds.

    I received them this morning.



  • Kristin

    If you live in Houston, TX, I purchased Epazote at Arbor Gate nursery off of 2920 in Tomball, TX.

  • Eloise Lukas

    I have AeroGardens and epazote is one of the plants in the Southwest Herb variety. Mine has done well and I use it in my chilis and bean dishes. Mine is “seeding” right now and I am trying to save the seeds to grow outside next spring, or at least in pots. I am told it can be quite invasive in outdoor gardens, but we have so little garden space that I don’t think I will even try it except in pots. I fell for this herb while greatly enjoying a Mexican chicken soup in an ethnic restaurant, and I asked what it was. Locally, I can buy the herb only in ethnic Mexican markets, so I have really enjoyed my fresh hydroponic garden variety.

  • Dale

    Hi Kenny, I just planted an aerogarden, and was reading about epazote. I had not heard of this plant, but it sounds like I could use it! I live in Western Colorado, where can I find seeds in this area for growing?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Dale, there’s a link right above in comment #8 to Nichols Garden Nursery, I know they carry seeds for epazote.

  • heather clark

    Can epazote be grown from cuttings, like mint & lemongrass, or do I have to have the seed?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Heather, I don’t think that epazote can be grown from cuttings but I have never tried. They are very easy to grow from seed, just scatter the seed on the soil and they will sprout. They can be slightly invasive because they set seed so well but I have not had a problem with keeping the volunteers under control. Let a plant or two go to seed and you will not have to replant for the next season.

  • gladis

    El epazote es delicioso hasta me lo como solo y lo disfruto mucho en quesadillas y con harto epazote!!

  • Kenny Point

    No habla espanol, but that still sounds delicioso to me! I have some epazote that is ready to be harvested right now that I was planning on drying. How about sharing some of your epazote recipes… in English, por favor!

  • efrain

    Hola Gladis, soy de Panama, tienes idea de otro nombre para el epazote, ya que me glustaaria probarlo. Saludos

  • Mac

    Please give me a good answer to give my dinner guests who ask “why are there little sticks in your otherwise fantastic beans”? Their concern is about their ability to digest “twigs”. I’ve cooked with epazote for many years but have had to spend a lot of time dealing with the twig issue.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Mac, I wouldn’t be too excited about eating those little sticks either, the easiest solution is to use the non-woody portions of epazote or any other herb that you are using in your recipes. You can harvest the entire herb for use while it is young and immature and all of the plant is still green and succulent. For older and fully mature herb plants you can strip off and use only the leaves, flowers, and the new growth along the tips for use in the kitchen.

  • I received Espazote from a neighbor across the street. However, something came up and I was unfortunately unable to use it prior to it wilting too badly. I have received a new batch from her, but was out of town. She left me with several bags of her “produce”, as they’ve moved and this is the literal last of her garden that she’s loved and cared for for years. Everything is a bit wilted, as the housekeeper had no idea what to do with the grocery bags full of food?? Anyhow, the Espazote she left did have roots attached and I have put them (a bit wilted and all) into a cup full of water and hope that they will perk up enough to be able to plant! I would love to carry on her garden, so will be searching other ways to grow the other various items she left as well, which I have a hunch may be easy. We live in Arizona, and our front yard is the best place for a garden, as we have a number of dogs that utilize the back yard 🙂 wish me luck and I’m appriciative of the quesidilla recipe!! I had NO idea what to make it with, other than “mexican type dishes”. Dinner tomorrow!


    Hello just wondering is epazote the same as huacatay I’ve been told it’s the same thing??????????

  • Ariana

    I have been looking for this plant for a while, actually I have purchased seeds (from Johnny’s selected seeds)in the past but I guess I planted them too early they do not like the cool weather… and yesterday I found them available at the local HD, (bonnie’s plants) very surprised ’cause if you did not grew up eating it is hard to developed a taste for it kinda like cilantro, they are dif. varieties in Mexico some tastier than others but all medicinal I remember my grandma using it for things like: menstrual cramps (tea), gas and to deworm us (along with raw pepitas in a shake like concoction), lol… they are some dishes that if you don’t put it on them they just don’t taste as good,such as: red chicken and vegetable soup, black bean soup, chilaquiles, squash blossom quesadillas, beef and vegetable soup, etc. the key is to throw in the dish last minute or it will turn unpleasant. 🙂

  • Ariana

    By the way @ VERONICA, nope it is not the same, if you mean peruvian huacatay? is also know as Mexican Marigold or Peruvian black mint, here in the states 😉

  • Homer Depot

    This plant is also sold at Home Depot! Even here in Michigan!

  • Irma

    A friend of mine introduced me to this plant a year ago. I was having a lot of bloating and discomfort and she gave me a small plant and said this should cure your problems. I was in disbelieve the first time I cut a leaf from the plant, washed it real good and added salt. I chewed on the leaf for a second and within minutes all my discomforts were gone. My belly was not bloated any more. I feel in love with this plant and now I am a true believer that Epazote is a healing plant. I am so grateful at my friend for introducing me to Epazote.

  • Viv

    Epasote is used in soups and bean dishes because it relieves Intestinal gas. You can also make a tea using the leaves when you feel bloated and gassy.

  • Mary Ann

    You can order Epazote seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

  • Viv

    To the person who ask if epazote can be started by a cutting and the answer is yes, you do not need seeds,.

  • Leila

    Epazote seeds can be ordered from http://www.seedsavers.org

  • umpire9

    Can you eat the flowering tops of the plant as if they were leaves?

  • Kenny Point

    I usually use the fresh leaves and dry some for use during the winter but I can’t think of any problem with using the tops of the plants also. Just be sure to allow some of the epazote to go to seed and mature so that they will self seed and produce volunteer plants in the garden next summer.

  • disqus_6DbrMJ2WvJ

    Does anyone know if I can successfully grow Epazote in interior Alaska? We have a long growing season, with summer temps b/w 40 and 80. Thank you.

  • Kenny Point

    I think that you should be able to grow Epazote under the conditions that you indicated. It is pretty easy to cultivate and grows like a weed in my garden.

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