By Jennifer Poindexter
If you’re looking for a unique herb to add to your herb garden, consider growing epazote. It’s native to Central America and is known for its unusual flavors.
Some say this herb tastes like a mixture of oranges, oregano, and mint. Should you consider growing this herb, be sure to first take the time to learn what it needs. This could greatly improve your success rate.
I’m going to walk you through this plant’s growing conditions, how to plant it, and how to care for it as well.
If you’re interested in learning how to grow epazote, here’s what you should know when getting started:
Growing Conditions for Epazote
Epazote is a common ingredient in both Mexican and Guatemalan cooking. It commonly goes by the name wormwood as well.
This herb grows to be approximately four feet high and two feet wide. It produces elongated, jagged leaves with small yellow flowers.
You may not immediately draw to epazote as the plant is known for smelling of kerosene or like the scent of a skunk.
Should you decide to grow this plant, it does well in planting zones four through twelve and serves as a perennial in zones eight through twelve.
Pick a growing location with ample sunlight and well-draining soil as it can’t tolerate having wet feet. Be mindful not to amend the soil or fertilize the plant too much as this can have a negative impact on the flavor of your harvest.
Now that you know what this plant needs to grow, it’s time to learn how to plant this herb in your garden.
How to Plant Epazote
There are two methods to growing epazote from seed. The first method is starting the seeds indoors ahead of the final frost.
Start by soaking the seeds overnight in water. When done, fill a container with well-draining soil and press two seeds into each cell of the tray.
Cover the seeds lightly with dirt and mist them with a spray bottle of water. Ensure the soil remains consistently damp.
It takes approximately one to two weeks for the seeds to germinate. It’s wise to place the trays on a heating mat as this helps encourage a stronger germination rate.
After the seeds have sprouted, continue to spray them with water and place them in a warm location where they’ll receive bright, indirect light.
Once the plants have true leaves and all threat of frost is over, begin hardening the seedlings off prior to transplanting them outdoors.
At the time of transplant, dig a hole large enough to support the root system. Place the plants in the holes and backfill them. Press firmly around the base of the plants to avoid air reaching the roots.
Be sure to put two feet of space between each plant to provide ample room for growth.
The second option for growing epazote is to sow the seeds directly in the ground after frost is over. Till the soil and prepare it to receive seed.
Sprinkle the seeds in rows into the prepared space. Cover them lightly with soil and keep it evenly damp while the seeds sprout.
Once sprouted, thin the plants to ensure there’s approximately two feet between each plant.
You may practice succession planting with epazote by directly sowing seed into your garden once per month.
These are the few ways you may grow epazote around your home. Pick the method that works best for your planting zone and try your hand at growing this herb.
Caring for Epazote
After you have epazote planted in your garden, it’s important to know how to care for it. Without this information, it could have an adverse impact on your harvest.
Thankfully, epazote is a low-maintenance plant. All you must do is water the plants correctly, prune them on occasion, and learn how to control their reseeding habits.
First, let’s discuss how to water epazote. This herb is known for tolerating some drought. However, it’s best to water the plant deeply for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.
This encourages the plant to develop a deeper root system as the roots dig into the soil between watering sessions to retrieve necessary moisture. Deeper roots frequently equate to a healthier plant.
To know when to water again, stick your finger into the soil and see if it’s dry to your first knuckle. If it is, water the plant deeply again. If not, wait a day or two and test the soil.
Next, you should prune your epazote plants on occasion to keep them well manicured. Also, this will encourage them to become bushier.
You may grow epazote in a container to control the plant’s reseeding. Grow the herb in a one-gallon planter if you’re concerned about it spreading too much in your growing space.
One other thing you should know about epazote is that this plant contains ascaridole. This is a compound which can hinder the growth of plants growing nearby.
Therefore, you shouldn’t grow epazote around immature plants. However, once the plants have matured, epazote can serve as a helper.
The odor of epazote is great for keeping pests away while the blooms of the plant invite beneficial insects.
These are a few things to keep in mind when caring for epazote. Understand what this plant needs and where it grows best to have a better growing experience.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Can Harm Epazote
You can’t grow a plant without learning what it needs to be protected from. In this case, epazote has quite a few enemies in the garden.
The most common pests to impact epazote are thrips, slugs, flea beetles, aphids, and cabbage loopers. All of which can be treated with an insecticide but be sure to treat promptly to avoid a larger infestation.
Epazote also commonly battles mosaic virus, blight, and downy mildew. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for mosaic virus.
If this impacts your plant, pull it up immediately and destroy it. Don’t compost plants infected with mosaic virus as it can allow the virus to spread to other plants when the compost is used.
Blight and powdery mildew are fungal based issues. Both may be treated with a fungicide and any infected parts of the plant should be removed and destroyed.
It’s wise to mulch around the base of the plant to stop spores from splashing onto it during watering.
Also, be sure to grow epazote in an area with plenty of sunlight and adequate drainage as fungal issues thrive in areas that are cold and wet.
You may also prune your epazote plant regularly to encourage better airflow. This can help deter fungal issues as well by ensuring no moisture gets caught in the foliage.
By staying alert to potential risks, you should be able to help your epazote plants bounce back from any issues which may arise.
How to Harvest Epazote
The final step in growing epazote is knowing how to harvest it. It’s important to note that epazote should be enjoyed in small quantities.
This plant is considered poisonous to humans and animals in large quantities. It should also be avoided by pregnant women and children.
However, when you’re ready to enjoy the herb in a small dose, wait until approximately two months after planting.
Begin by cutting the younger leaves away from the plant. Take the leaves indoors and store them in a damp paper towel.
From there, store the paper towel in an airtight container. Your harvest should last for around three weeks if stored in this manner.
You may also dry epazote and store it in an airtight container. Be sure to keep the container in a cool, dark location.
You may eat the older leaves of the epazote plant, but keep in mind, the older the leaves the stronger the flavor will be.
These are a few tips to take into consideration when harvesting this unique herb straight from your home garden.
Epazote is a different herb that many people have never heard of. It has a unique fragrance and taste that some people really enjoy.
Be sure to grow epazote in the right location in your garden to encourage optimal growth without hindering other plants. With a little planning, epazote could be a cherished herb around your home.
Epazote Growing Reference Chart
|Category||Details on Epazote|
|Common Name||Epazote, Wormwood|
|Flavor||Mixture of oranges, oregano, and mint|
|Plant Size||Approximately 4 feet high and 2 feet wide|
|Leaves||Elongated, jagged leaves|
|Flowers||Small yellow flowers|
|Planting Zones||4 through 12|
|Perennial Zones||8 through 12|
|Sunlight Requirement||Ample sunlight|
|Soil Requirement||Well-draining soil|
|Water Requirement||Avoid over-watering|
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