Tagetes minuta – Huacatay

Tagetes minuta is a South American herb that has had a very mixed reception and history. As an example of the conflicting views it has been called ‘Stinking Roger’ and ‘ Black Mint’ in various locations. It has been said to do all manner of things including injure livestock,   heal indigestion and general psychic distress, and kill weeds…

It has a very distinct but hard to describe aroma to it’s leaves and flowers in the field, and the taste of the leaf is unique as well – but it has a hint of apple ‘like’ flavour. Traditionally it has been used as a tea and also as a fresh leaf addition to dishes. The ‘tagetes’ essential oil is widely used in food flavouring.

It makes for an interesting pesto type mix to add to dishes as a condiment (blend it with something like peanut oil and add a touch of chili).

It seeds easily, grows quite fast and large, and has both profuse flowers and seed for a long period of time from Spring through to mid winter. I can see why it may become a weed if it gets into the wild or is not controlled.

Like the other Tagetes it loves heat and full sun and if possible lots of moisture and a good soil will give it a better more intense flavour – but it will also thrive on neglect.

Although theoretically a perennial it seems to be fairly short lived – but makes up for it by reseeding extensively and fairly easily.