Fiesta Flavors


Cilantro  Coriandrum sativum       Family Apiaceae    TAMBloomPhoto(79k)
This cool weather loving herb is a lacy looking annual whose leaves are used in Mexican and Asian
cooking.  The seeds are the spice known as coriander.  Flat, dark green leaves form a rosette from which
clusters of white flowers appear in the spring.  It easily reseeds itself.  Cilantro is best planted in the fall in
Austin, Tx as it will quickly bolt in hot weather.  The leaves change shape and flavor as the flower stalks
begin to form.  Cilantro will grow best in full sun.  Seeds are easily collected by removing the seed heads
when they begin to turn brown and placing in a paper bag until they are completely dry.  Try some tasty recipes.

Mexican Mint Marigold     Tagetes lucida         Family Asteraceae          AMWPhoto(43k)
South Texans have trouble keeping tarragon through the long, hot summer, but instead they are blessed with "Texas Tarragon".  This anise flavored perennial is a wonderful addition to the landscape.  Growing to 30 inches, the shapely clump becomes ablaze in fall with golden marigold-like blossoms.  When planted next to a purple flowering Salvia leucantha the effect is breathtaking.  As if beauty weren't enough, the plant's delightful anise flavor can be used in place of tarragon (but it is not an identical substitute, the taste of mexican mint marigold is milder and more anise-like).  It makes an excellent addition to teas and punches, wonderful herbal vinegars and the leaves may be added to chicken dishes.  Mexican Mint Marigold is easy to grow.  It does best in full sun and wants well draining soil.  It is fairly drought tolerant.  It may be propagated by root divisions, or cuttings root easily in water or potting mix.  The plant will die back during cold weather, but springs to life with its stems of elongated leaves when spring temperatures arrive.
Mexican Oregano          Poliomintha bustamanta        Family Lamiaceae
Not a true oregano, this attractive shrub gives color, scent and flavor to the landscape.  Growing to 30 inches in Austin, Tx, the lovely tubular lavender colored flowers and small glossy leaves make a striking addition to the garden.  The flavor is intensely oregano and the leaves can be used in any recipe that calls for oregano, although it is prudent to start with a smaller amount than called for.  In mild winters the plant may be evergreen.  Mexican oregano is drought tolerant and will flower best in full sun.  Grow it in well draining soil and prune frequently to control its sometimes awkward shape.  (Note-there are several other plants called Mexican Oregano)  This plant may be found labeled as Poliomintha longiflora, see The Big Book of Herbs by Dr. Arthur O. Tucker and Thomas DeBaggio for a brief discussion of the nomenclature.
Epazote   Chenopodium ambrosioides            Family Chenopodiaceae
A traditional herb in Mexico, epazote is often called the "bean herb".  This weedy plant, smelling of turpentine, is often grown to be used in bean dishes.  When added in the last 15 minutes of cooking, it is said to reduce the gassy aftereffect of eating beans but conclusive evidence is lacking.  This herb is not GRAS (generally recognized as safe ), the oil is toxic in comparatively small doses and injected water extracts have produced tumors in rodents.  More reseach is needed before it is used as a culinary herb but it does make an interesting cultural herb in the garden.  Epazote is easy to grow from seeds or cuttings.  It is often found  growing wild around streams, but seems to be able to tolerate any growing conditions.  Frequent pruning will help maintain an attractive shape and prevent flowering and the resultant spread of seeds throughout the garden.  The serrated leaves are a nice, light green and are the source of the genus name "chenopodium" or goosefoot.  The flowers are unremarkable.  Epazote will die to the ground during the winter and come back as an even bigger clump the following spring.
 
 
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