Black Peruvian Mint
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Black Peruvian mint is a quick-growing annual herb that can reach anywhere from half a meter to two meters tall. It produces tiny yellow or green flowers and thin dark-green leaves with pointed tips, pronounced ridges, and fine-toothed edges. The leaves offer a crunchy and succulent texture with a fresh, vibrant, complex fragrance and flavor, which blends hints of basil, tarragon, and licorice with notes of cooling peppermint, tangy lime, and fruity pineapple.
Black Peruvian mint is available in the summer.
Despite its name, Black Peruvian mint is not a true mint but is actually a member of the marigold family. It is botanically classified as Tagetes minuta, a reference to the plant’s miniature flowers, and is also known as Mint Marigold, Wild Marigold, Mexican Marigold, Menta Negra, or Huacatay. While it is a popular culinary ingredient in many South American countries, notably Peru, it is widely used as a natural pest repellent in Africa by hanging bundles of fresh or dried stems around the house. Black Peruvian mint is also commonly cultivated for producing the essential oil marketed as marigold oil.
Black Peruvian mint is a good source of antioxidants and essential fatty acids, which help the body absorb vitamins and minerals to build and maintain good health. It is also known to have antibacterial, antiviral, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Essential oils and teas made from Black Peruvian mint leaves have traditionally been used throughout South America to help fight colds, respiratory inflammations, asthma, and even stomach aches or gastrointestinal infections.
Black Peruvian mint is used fresh, dried, or in paste form and is most commonly found in Peruvian and other South American dishes. Use it to impart flavor in salads, soups, stews, sauces, and marinades or to garnish or infuse cocktails and other beverages. The sweet, minty, basil-like flavor also works well in chilled desserts. Black Peruvian mint can be used similarly to cilantro in salsas and ceviche and is a good substitute for those who don’t like the taste of cilantro. It pairs well with chile peppers, garlic, onion, cilantro, potatoes, risotto, fresh soft cheese, chicken, lamb, and seafood. Fresh Black Peruvian mint should be used immediately for the best flavor. For extended use, it can be dried and stored in a cool and dark place or made into a paste and refrigerated.
In South America, Black Peruvian mint is more commonly known as Huacatay—which comes from the indigenous language, Quechua, of the Inca empire—although there are numerous nicknames for the popular herb that differ from region to region. People throughout Peru grow this popular herb at home to use in cooking or for making medicinal tea. Black Peruvian mint is a staple ingredient in many authentic Peruvian recipes, such as ocapa, a popular potato dish, and pachamanca, the Peruvian equivalent of barbecue. It is also found in a traditional Andean stew called locro, made with pumpkin, potatoes, and Black Peruvian mint. It is commonly used as an accompanying sauce for grilled chicken and fish dishes, such as aji verde sauce, a spicy salsa typically made with Black Peruvian mint, aji amarillo chile peppers, and other ingredients like queso fresco, lime juice, vegetable oil, and salt. While it is most closely tied to Peruvian cooking, Black Peruvian mint can be found in cuisines all over South America, especially in Chile and Bolivia.
Black Peruvian mint is native to the Peruvian Andes and the southern half of South America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Paraguay, where it has been growing wild since ancient times. It was introduced to the rest of the world during the Spanish colonization and has since naturalized in parts of Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and North America, including the southern United States. Many places outside of its native land consider this herb to be a weed as it is quick-growing and abundant. It has been cultivated for its oil since the mid 18th century and is most commonly grown in home gardens and local farms in Peru and Bolivia for use as a popular culinary spice. While jarred Black Peruvian mint paste is more readily available, fresh Black Peruvian mint leaves can be hard to get outside of their native land but may be found at local markets, specialty stores, or Latin marketplaces.
Recipes that include Black Peruvian Mint. One is easiest, three is harder.
|There's a Newf in my Soup!||Andean-Style Roasted Potatoes with Huatacay-Yellow Chili Sauce|
|The Daring Gourmet||Peruvian Aji Verde Sauce|