Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Huacatay: The Indispensable Andean Herb

Photo: William S. Justice at USDA.

Huacatay, huacatay. Pronounced 'wah-kah-tie', it is sometimes called Peruvian black mint. This herb is central to much Andean cooking and is the Peruvian cousin of the marigold, a version of tagates minuta. Huacatay has very aromatic leaves which are ground into a paste (usually with a mortar and pestle) that adds flavor and depth to many Peruvian Andean dishes.

Photo: Jordi Recasens Guinjuan at Ví­a Rural.

Aside from adding flavor to many dishes, a spicy
ají can also be made with huacatay.

Here is one recipe that comes from
SN Janin at Astray. I don't have access to the fresh ingredients, but I do my best with the bottled versions.

Ají­ de Huacatay

125 grams
ají­ mirasol

1 medium sprig

(saltwort) leaves

Roast the ají mirasol whole, then cut in half and remove fibers. Wash and grind in a mortar and pestle with washed huacatay and paico leaves until you obtain a smooth paste.

Season with salt, a little oil, and beat well.

Serve with boiled potatoes or large-kernel corn, and meat.

Huacatay in a bottle.
Photo: La Bodega Peruana.

Nowadays, there are many companies in the US that import Peruvian food products including huacatay. A cheese and huacatay sauce is also easily made by blending soft farmer-style cheese (I use Mexican queso fresco), huacatay from a bottle, and evaporated milk. This sauce is good over boiled potatoes.

There is another post on this blog about huacatay at this link.


Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana


Unknown said...

I brought some huatacay sees from Peru a few years ago and they grew well in my home in California. The seeds regenated by themselves for a few years but then I overplanted and the huatacay did not regenerate. After seaching the web I learned that huatacay was purportedly tagates minuta. I purchased some tagates minuta seeds from England and planted them to find that it is not huatacay. The seedlings I have are very small but do not have the oval leaves with black spots that I had with my earlier huatacay seedlins

Unknown said...

They are tagates eliptica.

::Alejandro:: said...

Hi Tom, thanks for visiting Peru Food, but while they do look similar, and are both aromatic plants used in cooking of the tagetes genus, according to the University of La Molina, considered Peru's best university in the agricultural and forestry sciences, huacatay is tagetes minuta (link: here

while tagates eliptica is called, at least in Peru, chincho:

link here

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much on the huacatay. Does anyone know where I can purchase huacatay seeds or the actual plant in California? Thanks,

Anonymous said...

I grow Huacatay that in Yuma Az and can send you seeds if you like. Contact me at docpreacher@gmail.com for more info. These are descended from Huacatay that I brought directly from Peru.