Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Epazote, The Herb, and Sun Drying!

Dear Folks,

Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides also called Dysphania ambrosioides) is a naturalized herb in the Southwest, native to Central and South Americas and Southern Mexico.

The Chenopodium family is somewhat unique in that its family members consist of an herb (Epazote), a grain (Quinoa), greens (Spinach, chard and lambs quarters) and roots (beets).

Known and used for its "natural beano" beneficial qualities in cooking with beans, it has an interesting and robust flavor.  Can be substituted for rosemary or cilantro in dishes if you like experimenting.

FYI when using Epazote with your bean dishes use stems or some of the fresh or dried Epazote while cooking but ALWAYS reserve some to add the last 15 minutes of cooking or just before serving to maximize the beneficial element.

In the garden Epazote can be come a weed, freely re-seeding all over the place (which is why I dried some the other day - it was growing where I did not want it to grow).  Is very heat tolerant and grows pretty much all year long, going through cycles of fresh growth, flower, seed and then more fresh growth.  If allowed to stay in place it develops a huge tap root and can reach 4 feet high.  It is best to keep it under control by harvesting and/or pruning back regularly.

Sun Drying

When I returned from my trip I found 2 nice 14 inch plants where I do not want them to be and decided to sun dry them.

I use a set of dehydrator trays I picked up at a swap meet some years ago and it lets me make maximum use of the table space in the yard with best sun exposure.

Sun dry your herbs, fruits, and vegetables when the temps are 85+ and dry (low humidity).  If they are not dry at the end of the day, bring the trays back inside so they do not reabsorb moisture and place back out the next day to finish drying.

The Epazote dried in one day.

Some things like fruits and vegetables may take 2 days.  If we are in the 90s+ expect many things to dry in a few hours :-) -- taking full advantage of our hot sun saves a lot of energy.

I dry the stems of herbs to use for flavoring while cooking. Removed at the end as you would a bay leaf.

Once completely dry store in dark, cool, moisture-free environment.  I personally like glass jars, but ziplock bags will work also.

Leave "leaves" whole for maximum life and flavor.  Crush when using.
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Check out my publisher's site for my month-by-month planting calendar for the Desert Southwest and USDA Zones 9B and above, my cookbooks and beginnings gardening book for the Desert Southwest.

You can also find me on Facebook where I post gardening and cooking information.

Have a best day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
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