Huacatay

Flowering Huacatay Plants [Black Mint, Muster John Henry, Southern Cone Marigold, Stinking Roger, Wild marigold; Anisillo (Spanish); Chinchilla, Chiquilla, Chilca, Zuico, Suico (South America); Huacatay (Peru); Huacataya (Bolivia); Tagetes minuta]

This plant is native to western South America, but has been naturalized in numerous areas in Australasia, Asia, North America, Europe and Africa. Its growth habit is weedy, vertical, and up to 6 feet tall. It has long been used as a culinary flavoring and tea in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. It is very strong, so must be used with discretion so it doesn't overwhelm other flavors.

Huacatay has been recommended as a good substitute for people who can't stand Cilantro (sometimes blamed on a mutant OR6A2 gene).   Photo by Paul Venter distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 unported.

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Commonly called "Black Mint", Huacatay does have some mint-like bite, though it is in no way related to mints. The statement that it is a suitable substitute for Cilantro for people who can't stand Cilantro due to a mutated OR6A22 gene is closer, but still a bit of a stretch. Culantro would be a lot closer, and it doesn't have the OR6A2 problem.

Buying:   Unfortunately, in North America, the only way to have fresh Huacatay leaves is to grow them yourself. Fortunately, it is basically an aggressive weed and very easy to grow from seeds, which are easily available on-line. I have seen frozen leaves in a large market here in Los Angeles (Burbank) that specializes in Mexican, Central American and South American foods.

Huacatay Paste
Dish of Huacatay Paste Huacatay Paste is much used in Peru as an ingredient in sauces and the like, and can be used elsewhere when fresh leaves are not available.

Buying:   Huacatay Paste is important enough it is not hard to find in North America. My usual specialty market for Mexican, Central American and South American foods was temporarily out of stock, so I ordered the photo specimen from Amigo Foods in Florida.

Cooking   The most famous dish using Huacatay Paste is the Ocopa sauce of Arequipa in southern Peru. It is most commonly served as a cold appetizer over slices of boiled potatoes, but is also used as a pasta sauce and in other ways.

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