Though considered a weed in North America, it is used in Mexican and Caribbean dishes as an herb. It is typically used in black bean recipes, and in Mexican moles.
Many people find its taste cloying and medicinal, and its smell like gasoline. Those who like it say it has a sweet, mild, citrusy flavour. Those who don’t say it smells like skunk.
Epazote can be bought fresh or dried. Fresh, it can be used in salads and scrambled eggs. It the stem seems woody, just discard the stem and use the leaves.
Epazote is not the same as the herb Wormseed (Chenopodium ambrosioides var. anthelminticum), though it is sometimes unhelpfully called Wormseed. Wormseed is closely related to Epazote, but has a particular potency against intestinal worms; thus its name.
Some people believe that Epazote in bean dishes can lessen the amount of gas that develops in your stomach. They will use 1 tablespoon fresh per 2 quarts / 2 litres of bean mixture (either chili, boiled beans or bean soup).
No real substitutes; just use another herb that you do like or can get. Some people recommend Mexican Oregano.
Contains an anti-intestinal gas agent; just how effective it is, is anecdotal.
More noteworthy, though, is that Epazote is poisonous in large doses — it contains Terpene peroxide ascaridole and can cause convulsions, coma, nausea, headache, etc. The flowers and seeds contain much of the toxin.
1 teaspoon dried = 7 fresh leaves = 1 stem
Store fresh Epazote in refrigerator either in a plastic bag or with its stems in a glass of water for up to 1 week. It is still fine to cook with even if it looks a little wilted.
Epazote is native to Mexico, where the Aztecs used it for medicine and cooking. It was brought to Europe in the 1600s by the Spanish from Mexico.
The word “Epazote” comes from the Aztec (Nahuatl) word “epazotl”. “Epazotl”, in turn, came from “epatl” meaning “skunk” and “tzotl”, meaning “sweat”. This refers obviously to how the herb smells to some people.