Huacatay is a member of the 50 species in the marigold family. All marigold species are edible. And very often only the flowers that are eaten. Peruviam Huacatay (Tagetes minuta) is a little different.
The most flavorful of the marigold species are, the Tagetes patula (French marigold), Tagetes tenuifolia (African marigold) Tagetes lucida (mexiacan marigold ) and Tagetes minuta
Huacatay is biologically known as Tages minuta.
The herb is widely known for its use in Peruvian cuisine. Lately there has been growing interest in Huacatay (pronounced “wah-ka-tay”) because of its unique flavor.
What is Huacatay?
Tagetes minuta goes by other names such as black mint, Mexican mint, muster john henry, southern marigold and others.
Huatacatay is abundant in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and other southern sections of South America.
Although the herb that is native to the Andean Region. However it has been naturalized in Africa, Asia and Europe.
What Huacatay Looks Like
Although Huacatay is widely used in cooking, it does not look like the average garden herb.
Black Peruvian mint can grow up to 6 feet tall.
The plant grows and thrives in wide open spaces and grasslands. In many areas the plant is considered an invasive weed.
The leaves are long and dark green with serrated edges The herb blooms tiny yellow and green flowers.
The leaves and flowers are generally the sections Huacatay herb that are consumed.
Huacatay Peruvian Black Mint
Since the Inca Civilization, Huacatay Peruvian black mint has played an important role in folk medicine.
Both the dried and fresh Huacatay leaves are used in Peruvian cooking.
The herb’s flowers and leaves have other uses as well.
Perucian Black mint leaves are used to make a hot herbal tea.
The tea is comsued as remedy to treat sore throats, the common cold, muscle spasms, and indigestion.
How To Make Huacatay Tea
Steep 2 teaspoons of crushed leaves in 8 ounces of boiling water. Adding a few mint leaves will enhance the flavor. Sweeten to taste and serve.
Peruvian black mint is also used topically for treating skin infections.
Cooking With Black Mint
The aromatic flavor of huacatay makes it an important ingredient in South American cuisine-particularly in the Adean region.
The aroma has been described as a combination of lime, mint, cilantro and basil.
In Peruvian cuisine, the leaves are pounded into a paste that is rubbed on meats and poultry. They are also added to stews, soups and vegetables for flavoring.
A creamy aromatic green sauce made with the herb is served as a condiment.
Where fresh leaves are not available, the mint’s paste makes a great substitute. It is available in specialty Central and South American Markets. It can be found in Mexican markets as well.
If you are unable to find Huacatay paste locally, you can always find it online. Note that the paste mainly comes labeled as Peruvian Mint Paste.
Huacatay Medicinal Benefits
Several studies have been done to investigate the medicinal value of the herb. On study aimed to verify that the herb can be used to treat stomach and intestinal discomfort.
After analyzing two compounds extracted from the plant, the study confirmed that the plant shows anti-inflammatory activity.
This supports the claim that Huacatay may be helpful in treating stomach and intestinal discomfort.
Other research confirms that the plant has antispasmodic, aromatic, diaphoretic, diuretic, and properties.
It was found that the haucatay leaves naturally contain antioxidants, calcium, iron and potassium.
More Mint Uses
Then the plant is in flower, it is harvested and the marigold oil is extracted from the stems and leaves. Marigold oil is considered an essential oil.
The oil finds its way into the making of things like flavouring in ice cream, baked products, and soft drinks.
Marigold oil is utilized in the manufacture of cosmetics such as creams and lotions.
Huacatay is a marigold species that has been used in Andean cuisine for many centuries. The herbs unique flavor makes it popular among lovers of Peruvian food. As a result black mint is growing in popluarity.
In addition, studies have confirmed that the mint has anti-inflammatory activity which may make it a helpful remedy for stomach and intestinal discomfort.